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National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Today we are considering H.R. 761, the so-called National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013. Now, despite the bill's title, it has almost nothing to do with national strategic and critical minerals production. In fact, under the guise of promoting the development of minerals critical to the United States' national security, this legislation would reshape mining decisions on public lands for almost all minerals.

Mr. Chairman, the bill's classification of ``critical minerals'' is so broad that even sand and gravel and other such things can fall under its definition. Critical and strategic minerals? The Democratic amendments we will consider today will attempt to tailor this legislation to cover only minerals that are truly critical and strategic and will address the egregious provisions that would truncate important environmental review.

Make no mistake, this bill is a giveaway. It is free mining, no royalties, no protection of public interest, exemption from royalty payments, near exemption from environmental regulations, near exemption from legal enforcement of the protections. And it's unnecessary.

There is a real debate that we could be having about the mining laws in this country. It should start with reforming the mining law of 1872, which is as archaic as its name suggests--the mining law of 1872. We should be discussing abandoned mine reclamation. We should be discussing ensuring taxpayers a fair return on industrial development of our public lands.

Mr. Chairman, in the Natural Resources Committee markup on May 15 of this year where H.R. 761 was reported out on a nearly party line vote, the committee also reported two other bills on a bipartisan basis, two other bills that would lay the groundwork for developing critical and strategic mineral production. Those bills, H.R. 1063, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013, and H.R. 981, the RARE Act, were unanimously reported out of the Natural Resources Committee and legitimately would be worth debating here in the House as part of any serious effort to improve our understanding of critical strategic mineral deposits and to aid in their development.

We reported out bills on a bipartisan basis that would do what this legislation purports to do. We could be discussing those bills. Instead, we're taking up legislation which is a giveaway. The legislation we could be dealing with would actually deal with strategic and critical minerals. Now, if the majority were to bring it to the floor, I'm sure it would pass in an overwhelming, bipartisan way and would likely be passed by the other body and signed into law. In fact, in the last Congress, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act--not to be confused with the Production Act that we are considering today--was supported by the National Mining Association.

The president and CEO of the National Mining Association issued a statement when that bill passed out of committee last Congress, and he said: ``The House Natural Resources Committee took important bipartisan action today to ensure U.S. manufacturers, technology innovators, and our military have a more stable supply of minerals vital to the products they produce and use.'' He went on to say that legislation, ``will provide a valuable assessment of our current and future mineral demands and our ability to meet more of our needs through domestic minerals production.''

We could be considering legislation like that.

We should be able to work in a bipartisan fashion when it comes to improving our supply of rare-earth minerals and other strategic minerals and ensuring that we are not dependent on China and other nations for their supply. But the majority seems to be not interested in that. Evidently, they don't want to work in a bipartisan fashion to produce legislation that all sides out there in the country, in industry, people who look after public lands and the environment could agree on. Instead, they're moving this bill, H.R. 761, which has almost nothing to do with strategic minerals, is really about giveaways to the mining industry.

This bill would be a Trojan horse if it were to become law; however, it has no chance of becoming law. Maybe the American people should be grateful we won't pass this giveaway, that the American people--I say, those American people who don't stand to get rich by this mining giveaway.

But can the American people really feel good that we're wasting time and actually not looking after the critical and strategic minerals that American products, American defense depends on? Why are we playing these games? Why, I should say, are they playing these games with our legitimate needs to develop strategic minerals? We should be working in the kind of fashion that led to last year's bill.

The majority should shelf this giveaway to the mining industry and bring to the floor serious proposals that we could honestly debate as part of a legitimate bipartisan discussion regarding rare-earth policy and supply.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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