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National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Madam Chair.

My amendment is very simple. It replaces the overly broad definition in H.R. 4402 with a definition that truly address the materials identified in the title of the bill: critical and strategic materials.

Since the realization that China was restricting exports of rare Earth metals in 2010, the issue of critical and strategic materials has reemerged as a concern. This isn't the first time Congress has considered our potential vulnerability to resource shortages. Just before World War II, Congress passed the Strategic and Critical Materials Stockpiling Act of 1939 to address our Nation's requirement for materials needed for national defense. We have expanded our notion of strategic and critical materials since that time to include civilian and economic needs for materials. But there is no precedent for the broad definition included in H.R. 4402. The military's current definition of strategic and critical materials in the U.S. Code is far narrower than the definition in this bill.

Nine of the ten bills introduced in this Congress dealing with strategic and critical minerals rely on definitions or specific lists of minerals that would conform to the definition in my amendment--not to the one in H.R. 4402. The definition in H.R. 4402 would include virtually all minerals and materials no matter how available they are. No other legislation proposes a definition that would consider sand and gravel ``critical'' materials.

The National Academy of Science panel looked at this issue in 2008. The panel specified two factors that define a mineral as critical: It is essential in use and subject to the risk of supply restriction. H.R. 4402's definition captures only the first factor that the Academy considered. The panel recognized that the list of critical materials was likely to change over time due to technological developments, usage patterns, changes in mineral reserves, and many other factors.

They developed a matrix that could be used to evaluate substances and used this matrix to examine a group of minerals that are in current high demand. Two dozen minerals were identified as critical in the NAS report. The rare Earth metals, the platinum metals, and several other minerals were included in their list. Oddly enough, sand, gravel, iron, copper--all useful materials, to be sure--did not make it to the list. The current definition in H.R. 4402 is unnecessary if the purpose is to secure additional critical minerals.

H.R. 4402 undermines the protection of our public lands and elevates mining above all other public land uses. If H.R. 4402 is truly a bill to address potential shortages of critical minerals, then my amendment should be adopted. Let's concentrate on the problem at hand: Securing additional rare Earth minerals and other truly critical minerals.

I urge my colleagues to support my amendment.

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Mr. TONKO. Madam Chair, I appreciate that.

I just want to state clearly that the amendment itself embraces flexibility. It understands that if there are changes in time that are requiring the list to be adjusted, we would have the academy adjust that so that the flexibility is there recognizing that if, in the course of time, the change needs to be made, if we need to further extend the list, so be it. But the flexibility is contained in the amendment.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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