U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today called for a bipartisan and comprehensive approach to rebuild the nation's critical minerals supply chain to prevent potential shortages of materials critical to the defense, energy, electronics, medical, and other industries.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday heard testimony from eight witnesses on the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013. The legislation -- introduced last year by Sens. Murkowski, Wyden, and several other cosponsors -- would revitalize the United States' critical minerals supply chain and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign suppliers. The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish a list of minerals critical to the U.S. economy and provides a comprehensive set of policies to address issues associated with their discovery, production, use, and re-use. The bill already has the support of 19 cosponsors in the Senate.
Murkowski: "Minerals are the building blocks of our economy -- critical to our prosperity, our standard of living, and our competitiveness. But our mineral-related policies are outdated and our dependence on foreign minerals is deepening. Our agencies are not as coordinated and focused on this issue as they need to be. And when it comes to permitting delays for mines, our nation is tied for last -- meaning worst -- in the world. All along the supply chain, our mineral-related capabilities have slipped. We need a steady, affordable, and domestic supply of minerals -- mined here, refined and processed here, and made into products here. Unless we take meaningful action, and soon, our economy and security could be jeopardized."
Wyden: "Our country is increasingly dependent on these minerals to increase efficiency, lower costs, and improve performance of manufactured products in these industries. Without them, many of our essential U.S. industries would struggle to survive. These materials are essential to American industries and may be at risk for supply disruptions, such as by a small global market or geopolitical complexities. This bipartisan legislation tackles these issues head-on, and most importantly ensures a steady supply of the materials that are crucial to thousands of good-paying American jobs."
The Critical Minerals Policy Act would update federal minerals policies for the 21st century and coordinate efforts across federal agencies. It also focuses on the broader supply chain for critical minerals. It takes a comprehensive approach -- from resource assessments to recycling and alternatives -- to ensure strong national mineral policies.
While America's foreign oil dependence often receives the most attention, our nation's growing dependence on foreign minerals constitutes a significant threat to our security and economy. The United States was 100 percent dependent on foreign sources for 17 mineral commodities in 2012 and more than 50 percent dependent on foreign sources for some 24 more, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, more than 25,000 pounds of new minerals are needed every year for each person in the United States to make the items we use every day for infrastructure, energy, transportation, communications, health care and defense.