Congressman Roscoe Bartlett today joined a bipartisan majority of his House colleagues voting in favor of H.R. 4402, the "National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012." The bill was approved by a vote of 256 to 160. Congressman Bartlett explained that, "Americans must act now to reduce our federal government's regulatory obstacles if we have any chance of challenging the dominance by China over these critical materials. If not, we will fall further behind and become more beholden to them." Congressman Bartlett is is a founding member of the Congressional Rare Earth Caucus and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). He earned 19 of his 20 patents for inventions of life-support equipment used by military pilots, astronauts and rescue workers as part of research projects that he worked on for the U.S. Navy and NASA.
H.R. 4402 would reduce the current time-consuming federal bureaucratic process of obtaining mining permits for rare earth and other strategic minerals on federal public lands, which on average take between seven and ten years. The bill would require government agencies to act concurrently and collaboratively to resolve conflicting requirements. EPA and other regulations gradually raised costs so much that the U.S. is now tied with Papua New Guinea as the countries with the most mining permit delays, some up to 15 years. As a result, America's technological superiority maintained after World War II and through the Cold War for mining and processing these strategic materials including the expertise and jobs to manufacture high tech components utilizing them gradually atrophied. Today, the U.S. domestic rare earths industry is nearly nonexistent. Meanwhile, China aggressively pursued these capabilities. China today controls production of more than 94% of the rare earth oxides on our entire planet and restricts their export to the U.S. and other countries. These minerals are crucial to many industries including national defense, advanced electronics and computing systems as well as clean, renewable energy technologies. Among affected defense equipment are guided munitions and point-defense systems, advanced electronics and computing devices. Rare earth elements are also used in many consumer electronics devices with batteries and LCD screens such as cell phones, iPhones and iPads. Rare earth elements are also used in metal alloys, ceramics, mirrors and glass used in vehicles as well as magnets used in many products including wind energy turbines.
Congressman Bartlett said, "Continuation of the regulatory status quo by the Obama Administration will acquiesce and support the continued dominance by China of the production and processing of rare earth minerals and manufacture of components for critical equipment relied upon by our warfighters that guarantee our national security. As a farmer and a scientist, I am well aware and committed to being a good steward of our environment. I believe this Act recognizes and provides mechanisms to ensure a necessary balance that will protect our environment while empowering Americans to compete against China. I am absolutely confident that Americans are capable of doing so. However, our federal government has to support rather than block mining and processing these critical minerals in the United States in order for American companies to use them in manufacturing while protecting the intellectual property rights (IP) of American scientists, engineers and businesses at every one of these production stages."