R Street study: it is time to reverse U.S. mineral import dependency

WASHINGTON (May 25, 2017) – A new report from the R Street Institute finds mounting imports are cultivating a risky import dependency for critical and strategic minerals. Over the past half-century, the United States has become more dependent on mineral imports to meet its domestic needs than at any time in its history, imperiling our ability to manufacture energy equipment, medical devices, electronics, agricultural products, household items and a range of goods essential to the national defense.

Decades of public policy choices favoring the preservation of public lands over responsible stewardship of collective resources have painted the United States into a corner, contributing to unnecessary dependency on potentially hostile trade partners for access to mineral commodities, authors Dr. Ned Mamula and Catrina Rorke find.

“American mineral wealth, much of it on federal land, now needs to be seriously considered as our national endowment. It is there for our wise use, just like our energy resources,” notes Mamula. “But we have a national problem regarding our mineral wealth—call it an ‘embarrassment of riches.’ Our access to minerals has been gradually deemed ‘off limits’ because extreme opinions on resource development have convinced policymakers to choose preservation over conservation.”

Mining for critical minerals is apt to face decade long permit delays, environmental lawsuits and multimillion acre land withdrawals—all of which sour investment in the mining industry. In order to tackle the cumulative impacts from decades of shortsighted minerals decisions, a number of compensatory policies to prepare the United States to weather trade disputes are needed.

“Luckily, the United States is blessed with expansive mineral and ore deposits and a more secure mineral future is within reach,” the authors write. “Recent technological breakthroughs in oil development have moved the United States from import-dependent to the largest oil and gas producer in the world. The same can be done for U.S. mineral wealth if the domestic industry were to be granted access to abundant public resources and unleashed from a restrictive, unpredictable regulatory paradigm.”

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