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Public Statements

National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CRAVAACK. Today, I rise in support of my amendment, as well as in support of the underlying bill.

H.R. 4402 is a commonsense, pro-growth piece of legislation that would simply facilitate a timely permitting process for very important mining projects throughout the United States.

The United States cannot continue to depend on foreign countries to supply critical precious and rare Earth metals. This is a vital strategic disadvantage to the security of the United States. What happens if, one day, a supplying country decides it doesn't want to export or decides to restrict precious metals? What if our sea lanes become controlled by those who are not friendly to the United States? These mines are not something we can turn on and off at the flip of a switch.

These mines are multi-million if not billion, dollar projects that take years of capital investment just to get going. This bill is as much a strategic defense bill as it is a jobs bill. According to a University of Minnesota-Duluth study, 2.5 ancillary jobs are produced for every mining job. These are good-paying jobs that we cannot afford to lose.

My amendment will also allow mining projects that have already applied for a permit and are currently in the permitting process access to the new expedited procedures. My amendment falls along the same commonsense thinking that the underlying bill comes from, which is that 30 months is plenty of time to complete the total review process for permitting a mine. Currently, there are numerous projects in the permitting pipeline that have taken way too long and that still have no definitive end in sight.

One such project is in my district. PolyMet Mining initiated an environmental review of its proposed NorthMet copper and nickel mine back in 2005. Since then, the company has invested over $40 million for EIS inquiries. That is 7 years and counting for just environmental reviews. Another project that is just getting under way in the Eighth District is the Twin Metals project, which will also produce thousands of Minnesota jobs for both construction and long-term operations.

In a 2009 study, the University of Minnesota-Duluth found that more than 12,000 Minnesota construction jobs will be created in Minnesota if all strategic metal mining projects currently under study move forward.

In 2009, the UMD study also estimated that more than 5,000 direct long-term Minnesota mining jobs will be created when all strategic metal mining projects currently under study become operational.

Minnesota needs these jobs, and the country needs the minerals that these mines produce, and everyone needs a definitive permitting timeline that is reliable. Unfortunately, PolyMet is not a unique project. Seven years and $40 million is not even the worst example of inefficient permitting. Many other mining projects have been stalled for even longer due to inefficient and, at times, an agenda-driven permitting process.

Another example is the Montanore mine in Montana. It has been in the permitting process since 2003. The Montanore project was previously permitted by the State of Montana, the U.S. Forest Service, and other cooperating Federal agencies in 1993, following a full EIS process. The company chose not to proceed with the project until 2003 and has been working to obtain the same Federal permits since that time.

Mr. Chairman, I could give example after example of how inefficient and onerous our Federal permitting process is, but there's just not enough time to do so. These multiyear delays in processing Federal permits for many good projects are impeding thousands of jobs, massive investments across the country, and are blocking domestic production of much-needed rare Earth strategic and critical precious metals.

This amendment would ensure that these projects, like all future projects, are given a firm timeline that communities can count on while, at the same time, more than addressing concerns.

I urge passage of this amendment and the underlying bill.

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Mr. CRAVAACK. Mr. Chairman, I would just like to remind our colleagues that mines aren't just permitted and then forgotten. They're constantly monitored.

The precious metals we're talking about go into our cell phones, our computers, our weaponry, and even our catalytic converters. We need these materials now, and we cannot be held ransom by China. May I remind you, 600 pounds of copper goes into every windmill.

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