This article from the Colorado Springs Gazette talks about a bipartisan bill to encourage mining of rare metal deposits. They reported on a Colorado School of Mines professor, Morgan Bazilion, testifying to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee.
Bazilian is director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
He testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as it considers legislation that creates incentives for U.S. mining companies to extract more of the minerals to make rechargeable batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and consumer products.
Manufacturing them often requires use of rare earth elements such as lithium, cobalt and yttrium.
Most rare earth minerals used in the U.S. come from China, where regulatory and environmental obstacles are less stringent and costly. Minerals commonly are extracted from open pit mines that are unlikely to win permits from U.S. regulatory agencies.
Nevertheless, new clean energy technologies cannot do without them, Bazilian said.
“The future energy system will be far more mineral- and metal-intensive than it is today,” he told the Senate committee. “Many of these advanced technologies require minerals and metals with particular properties that have few to no current substitutes.”
U.S. Geological Survey studies show large rare metal deposits in Colorado, particularly in the Wet Mountains and San Juan Mountains.
A leading legislative proposal in Congress to encourage more U.S. development of rare earth minerals is the American Mineral and Security Act, S. 1317.
It would require the Interior Department to maintain a list of minerals critical to U.S. economic prosperity and national security. Regulatory agencies also would be charged with improving processes to find, develop and use the minerals for industry.
You can see if there are rare earth minerals spotted by the USGS on these maps. Which even an old GIS-impaired person can use. Some appear to be on FS, although to what extent the FS would regulate vs. it being a locatable mineral, I don’t know.
I think it’s interesting because it’s one of a list of products (1) is something people need and (2) it can be produced from US lands but (3) the choice is to pay folks in other countries with potentially less stringent environmental regulation, and who may not always be inclined to sell them to us. On the pyramid of pristinity, of course, mining is possibly the lowest.
It seems to me that a rational approach would be to suggest:
(1) our country’s demand and use is the ultimate source of environmental damage, not the producer. By buying resources from other countries, we are implicitly accepting our responsibility for their environmental damage. This decoupling of responsibility seems to be assumed.
(2) there is some utility to being diverse and resilient to market forces and not dependent on other countries (especially when there are relatively few).
(3) if we produce, we can regulate in a way that is meaningful to us,
(4) if we produce, we get jobs (seemingly high paying), taxes, and if it’s on federal land, $ back to the feds (and for oil and gas, the states).
(5) to me, it’s conceptually different if we have it and don’t produce it, compared to not having the resource at all, which necessitates trade as a source.
For those of us who remember the oil crises of the past, we may not understand all the ins and outs of the geopolitical consequences of dependence for today, but our experience has not been good.
But what if we decided to take environmental responsibility for our own demand (in cases where we have that resource), and produce what we consume ourselves, or at least enough to make us resilient to market and geopolitical forces?
And what should be the role that federal land would play in that? Politician wise, we have the current Gov. of Colorado who called for less regulating of solar and wind on federal land, and we have current Presidential candidates who want to stop oil and gas leasing on federal land. Should the openness to activities on federal land depend on The Pyramid of Pristinity or the Pyramid of Climate Utility?