Published by MAC on 2020-10-05
Source: Thehill.com, Kbjr6.com (2020-10-02)
Supporting mines declared to be a “national emergency”
A new executive order from President Trump seeks to use the Defense Production Act — the law Democrats urged the president to use to mass produce equipment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — as a way to bolster the domestic mining industry. Those with ‘Save the Boundary Waters’ said they will continue to work with legislators to put a permanent end to mining in the BWCA. Becky Rom, the organization Chair, said: “The national emergency we’re in right now is COVID-19. It’s not that we need more smelters.” See also: 2008-10-21 Doing it right – or wrong – in Minnesota?
Trump executive order seeks to use Defense Production Act to bolster mining
A new executive order from President Trump seeks to use the Defense Production Act — the law Democrats urged the president to use to mass produce equipment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — as a way to bolster the domestic mining industry.
The order, issued late Wednesday, offers more messaging than substance, railing against China and warning the country could cut off access to critical minerals used in technology ranging from iPhones to medical equipment.
“A strong America cannot be dependent on imports from foreign adversaries for the critical minerals that are increasingly necessary to maintain our economic and military strength in the 21st century,” Trump wrote in the order.
The executive order largely directs departments to continue studying critical minerals and calls for a few new reports — efforts that are already underway in the Trump administration.
But Trump also directs the Department of the Interior to consider using the Defense Production Act, one of the most direct interventions yet for an administration that has rolled back numerous environmental laws that could slow mining.
“As a macro political thing it’s ridiculous that the president still won’t actually use the Defense Production Act for things like PPE that could actually save lives and instead, is invoking it for this very obvious political stunt to show he’s pro mining,” said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist for the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, in reference to personal protective equipment.
The 1950 Act, passed at the start of the Korean War, authorizes the president to force businesses to manufacture materials or products deemed necessary for the safety of the nation.
Democrats called on Trump to use the legislation to mass produce items necessary to combat the coronavirus when the outbreak began in the United States in March.
Trump issued the Wednesday order after holding a campaign rally in Duluth, Minn., near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area that has been eyed to expand mining for its nickel and copper reserves — neither of these are critical minerals.
Hartl said using the act to spur mining is both an unreasonable and unnecessary step that would interfere with free markets.
“It is all based on at its core is this anti-China rhetoric. ‘China has all these rare earth metals and the Chinese communists are going to cut us off, and we’ll be stranded.’ It’s just political. China has sold us and continues to sell us critical minerals because it’s in their interest to make money and be a part of the global economy,” Hartl said.
“Republicans love free markets unless they’re not working toward their sort of perceived objectives,” he added.
It’s not clear exactly how the Defense Production Act would be used to support mining, but it follows a similar pattern of other Trump executive orders that rely on emergency authorizations to begin projects.
The Wednesday order comes after numerous efforts from the administration to ease burdens on mining and more specifically, the uranium mining industry.
Environmental groups say the administration’s rolling back of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act have stripped away much of the regulatory review opposed by the industry.
“This executive order is just opening the doors wider to things we were already concerned about,” said Michele Bustamante, a science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Bustamante is worried the order will be used to expedite permits if a mineral is deemed critical.
“The entire premise of this executive order is flawed. We’re not mining here not because of regulatory burden but because of poor resource relative to other nations,” she said.
“It’s the mineral potential that is lacking.”
Locals react to Trump’s executive order focused on mining
October 1, 2020
ELY, MN — President Donald Trump announced a new executive order at Wednesday night’s rally in Duluth.
It specifically cuts down on what Trump called “unnecessary” permitting delays for companies like Twin Metals.
The company is looking to build an underground copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters.
Federal and state agencies are reviewing their design and possible impact on the surrounding environment.
Copper-nickel mining supporters hope this latest order is a step forward.
“Anything that works to streamline the process and to provide incentives for companies to both develop and maybe develop and process here can only be positive and helpful,” said Frank Ongaro, Executive Director for Mining Minnesota.
He adds it could also bring an economic benefit to the Iron Range.
“Rather than being dependent on foreign countries for the minerals we have right here in Minnesota,” he said.
When signing the order, President Trump declared supporting mines a national emergency.
Those with ‘Save the Boundary Waters,’ an environmental organization opposed to Twin Metals’ plan highly disagree.
National Chair Becky Rom said, “The national emergency we’re in right now is COVID-19. It’s not that we need more smelters.”
Mining officials more details on the new order are expected to come soon but regulations will still be met.
Ongaro added, “Keep in mind there’s no magic bullet. Every company, every project is still going to have to demonstrate that it meets all the state and federal air and water quality standards for it to move forward.”
Something Rom is afraid will destroy Minnesota’s national treasure.
She adds, “The Boundary Waters will be permanently damaged and we’ll never get it back the way it is now, so we can’t afford any other outcome.”
Congressman Pete Stauber who has been a key supporter of Minnesota mining called this a monumental step for Minnesota miners.
“COVID-19 has further shined a light on the deficiency of our critical minerals supply chain and highlights the urgency in which we must expand domestic mining. Now more than ever, we need Minnesota’s miners as we work to eliminate dependence on unreliable nations that utilize forced child labor and environmentally destructive practices for goods that we, in the United States, use in our everyday life. I applaud this Administration for acting on my request and taking this monumental step towards empowering Minnesota’s miners to responsibly source the resources needed for our national security, infrastructure, and manufacturing needs.” Congressman Pete Stauber (MN-08)
Stauber said COVID-19 has shined a light on what he called the deficiency of our critical minerals supply chain and the urgent need to expand domestic mining.
Stauber hopes this new order will stop the U.S. from depending on countries using forced child labor and environmentally destructive practices.
Those with ‘Save the Boundary Waters’ said they will continue to work with legislators to put a permanent end to mining in the BWCA.
Trump’s Mining Executive Order Puts Profits Before People
Statement of Earthworks Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Mintzes
2 Oct. 2020
“We’ve seen proclamations from President Trump on so-called critical minerals before. This one continues this administration’s consistent attempts to weaken public input and federal oversight over mining.
“What’s different now is the world’s interest in the equitable and just treatment of mining impacted communities. Mining companies now realize they must earn a social license to operate. Global backlash at Rio Tinto for destroying 46,000 year old indigenous sites forced the resignation of their CEO. Today’s Executive Order speeds the transfer of public lands, sacred to the San Carlos Apache, to Rio Tinto.
“The President is right that we need to improve our minerals policy which still lingers from an 1872 law intended for white colonization. But that doesn’t mean loosening oversight, it means reforming this law to help redress some of the inequities still evident in our power structures today, where governments permit destruction of indigenous sacred sites. Reform will also improve supply chain security in the materials needed for the clean, just, and equitable energy transition. We need 1872 Mining Law reform such as that proposed by Messrs. Grijalva and Udall.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- Executives to Step Down After Rio Tinto Destroys Sacred Australian Sites, New York Times, Sep 11, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/11/business/rio-tinto-indigenous-sites.html
- Attractiveness of the United States for Mineral Investment: https://www.earthworks.org/publications/attractiveness_of_the_united_states_for_mineral_investment/
- Most recent Fraser Institute Annual Survey of global mining company executive opinions re jurisdictions’ relative mining investment attractiveness (U.S. public lands states occupy four of the top ten slots). The Survey also provides an independent “Policy Perception Index: A report card to governments on the attractiveness of their mining policies” . U.S. public lands states also occupy four of the top ten slots.