Mining Executives Testify on Importance of Domestic Minerals


In testimony before House and Senate natural resources committees, National Mining Association (NMA) General Counsel Katie Sweeney and Hecla Mining Co. Vice President of External Affairs Luke Russell reminded members of Congress that domestic metals and minerals are not only the front-end of the supply chain for countless industries but are also vital to the success of rebuilding American infrastructure.

Before the House Natural Resources Committee, NMA’s Sweeney warned against “unwise and unwarranted mineral withdrawals” that ignore the vast sectors of the American economy that depend upon a reliable and secure supply chain of minerals and metals.

Sweeney said withdrawing massive acreage of mineral-rich federal land threatens supplies of minerals and metals that are important to the nation’s economy and encouraged streamlining the permitting process to allow timely access to these valuable resources. This is an important policy priority, she said, because federal lands account for as much as 86 percent of the land area in Western states that account for 75 percent of the nation’s metals production.

“Our domestic mining industry serves as the front-end of the supply chain for the minerals and materials vital to the success of countless other industries,” Sweeney said. “The materials produced by U.S. mining support our manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, communication, energy and national defense sectors and many others. They are the integral building blocks of everyday items like cell phones, laptops and cars, as well as infrastructure and lifesaving medical devices.”

At a similar hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to examine permitting processes, Hecla’s Russell explained that not only are metals and minerals direct inputs into infrastructure, they are also integral to the manufactured product components like structural beams, construction pipes and electrical wiring that support infrastructure projects. Due to their indispensable nature to nearly every industry, streamlining the permitting processes – which can currently take between seven and 10 years – should be a priority.

“The U.S. mining industry is the source of raw materials necessary to make planes, trains and automobiles possible, not to mention runways, bridges, rail lines, and roads,” he added. “We cannot repair our infrastructure without key raw materials.”

The testimony from mining executives raised congressional awareness of the nation’s increasing reliance on foreign sources of minerals and metals. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. is now import-dependent for 50 key metals and minerals – 100 percent import dependent for 20 of those. Less than half of the minerals U.S. manufacturers need are sourced domestically, despite the nation’s abundant mineral endowment.