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Vol. 22, No. 25 Week of June 18, 2017
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

Mining News: Cutting red tape

Trump wants quicker infrastructure permitting, miners want similar reform

Shane Lasley

Mining News

American miners hailed President Donald Trump’s plans to slash the red tape holding back infrastructure projects in the United States as positive step in repairing the United States’ deteriorating roads, rails, ports, and airports – a move that could also bolster the industrial sector that would supply the sand, gravel, concrete, zinc, copper and other mined materials needed for the President’s proposed US$1 trillion infrastructure enterprise. “President Trump’s welcome initiative to rebuild America’s declining infrastructure is poised to spur activity and employment throughout the economy, including in the nation’s mines,” said National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn. “The nation’s rich endowment of copper, nickel, zinc and other metals, minerals and materials produced by U.S. mines are the building blocks for the roads, bridges, dams and other structures that stand in dire need of replacement and renewal.” The NMA president, however, pointed out that it takes nearly a decade to permit a mine in the U.S., a delay that could slow Trump’s American infrastructure initiative. “Streamlining this inefficient permit process will remove a major impediment to his ambitious plan for public works projects and, at the same time, advance a job-creating initiative that will benefit all Americans,” he said.

Clearing red tape thicket

While Trump did not address mining regulations, he did lay out the broad outlines of a plan that he hopes will significantly reduce the time it takes to permit infrastructure projects in the United States. “No longer can we allow these rules and regulations to tie down our economy, chain up our prosperity, and sap our great American spirit. That is why we will lift these restrictions and unleash the full potential of the United States of America,” the President vowed during a June 9 speech in Washington D.C. Pointing out that it “took only four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge and five years to build the Hoover Dam,” Trump said that today it can take a company up to 10 years just to get a permit to start an infrastructure project. “Instead of rebuilding our country, Washington has spent decades building a dense thicket of rules, regulations and red tape,” he said. The president has outlined an initiative to clear unnecessary regulatory undergrowth with goal of reducing the average time it takes to permit an infrastructure project from around a decade to two years. “We will get rid of the redundancy and duplication that wastes your time and your money,” said. “Our goal is to give you one point of contact to deliver one decision – yes or no – for the entire federal government, and to deliver that decision quickly, whether it's a road, whether it's a highway, a bridge, a dam,” he said. The point of contact is a council being set up by the Trump administration “to help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze.” A similar group set up to permit mines in Alaska – Department of Natural Resources Large Mine Permitting Team – that provides a single contact for companies seeking to navigate the dozens of state and federal agencies and more than 100 permits needed to build a large scale mine in the state has proven to be a success. Taking this idea one step further, Trump said the federal infrastructure permitting council will create an online dashboard that allows the public to track projects through the permitting process. Trumps plans to decrease the time it takes to get an infrastructure project through the permitting process and the prospect of a major influx of public works projects in the United States is good news for America’s mining sector, especially for the quarry miners that will see increased demand for sand, gravel, rock, concrete and asphalt. “Allowing unnecessary and expensive regulations to delay or even prevent critical infrastructure projects has cost our economy years of positive development,” said Nationals Stone, Sand and Gravel Association President and CEO Michael Johnson. “The president's proposal to cut burdensome regulations will allow federal dollars to stretch further, create more jobs and ultimately stimulate economic growth.”

Mine permit bills

Presenting his infrastructure initiative, Trump said, “We will put new American steel into the spine of our country. And with these new roads, bridges, airports and seaports, we will embark on a wonderful new journey into a bright and glorious future.” NMA President Quinn says reducing the time it takes to permit a mine in the U.S. is vital to ensuring American steel, zinc and copper makes its way into the nation’s revitalized bridges, guardrails and electrical grid. “For this massive undertaking to be successful, however, the nation’s miners must have efficient access to the mineral resources that effectively represent the front end of the supply chain for infrastructure renewal. Today that efficient access is thwarted by conflicting and duplicative permit reviews conducted by multiple federal and state agencies that create wasteful and unnecessary delays to mining projects of up to seven to 10 years,” Quinn said. Legislation introduced to the House and Senate by Rep. Mark Amodei and Sen. Dean Heller, both Republicans from Nevada, aim to reduce the this timeframe to around 30 months, which would put the U.S. on par with other Western Mining countries such as Canada and Australia. Known in both cases as the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017, these permit streamlining bills were introduced in the Senate as S.145 and in the House as H.R.520. Both pieces of legislation define “strategic and critical minerals” as any minerals necessary for national security; energy infrastructure; transportation and other domestic infrastructure; and economic security of the United States. Interestingly, these bills contain many of the same guidelines as Trump outlined for shrinking the infrastructure permitting timeline. In fact, both pieces of legislation define U.S. mine project that would produce one or more strategic and critical minerals as infrastructure projects. This would, in effect, put these mines under the streamlined permitting timeline being proposed by the administration. Both versions of the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act are waiting to be heard by resource committees in the House and Senate.



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