In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece January 30, American Resources Policy Network president Daniel McGroarty appealed to the Obama Administration to reform regulations on mining so the country can more readily access more of the metals and minerals it currently imports—including copper.
In the op-ed piece, McGroarty said, “Consider copper, which serves as a gateway to 21 elements on the periodic table, collectively supporting transportation, manufacturing, modern medicine and the major alternative-energy sources to power the clean technology of the future. Copper can also be processed to produce selenium and tellurium (used in solar power), molybdenum (used in steel super-alloys), and rhenium (used in jet engines, lead-free gasoline and treatments for liver and bone cancers).”
The thrust of McGroarty’s argument was reform to shorten the mining-permit process should be a priority. “There is no country on the planet where it takes longer to get a permit for domestic mining,” he added.
In other commentary outside of his op-ed in the WSJ, McGroarty stated, “The Department of Energy just announced the creation of a ‘Critical Materials Institute’ to ‘focus on ensuring that the development and commercialization of new and innovative clean energy technologies can forge ahead unhindered by the scarcity of inaccessibility of critical materials.’
“American Policy Resources Network is counting on DoE, together with President Obama and the White House’s Material Genome Initiative, to realize the value of tapping domestic reserves of U.S. minerals and metals to make that happen.”
McGroarty and American Resources Policy Network director of research Sandra Wirtz co-authored a report entitled “Through the Gateway: Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology.” Published in September 2012, the report introduces and explains the concept of “gateway metals,” particularly as they apply to technology development. The report’s introduction explains, “Dozens of metals and minerals used in high-tech applications have a special status in the natural resource world as byproducts of base or industrial metals extraction … Access to many tech-metals is not through primary mining projects, but rather, through major metal mines that may or may not recover tech-metals as a byproduct.”
The report highlights the gateway metals: aluminum, nickel, copper, zinc and tin; it then lists the tech metals that these gateway metals unlock “and provides some contextual information on global and domestic resources, exploration and development, as well as the United States’ degree of dependency on foreign sources of supply.” The report states the U.S.’s dependency degree for copper is 35 percent, and main supplier nations are Chile, Canada, Peru and Mexico.
Specifically concerning the mining of copper in the U.S., McGroarty commented, “It’s the most versatile gateway metal … Yet in Arizona, one mining company has been trying for over 15 years to obtain approval from the U.S. Forestry Service to mine a copper deposit just south of Tucson that would create an estimated 2,900 jobs and $19 billion worth of investment in the state. In Alaska, another mining company has discovered what could be the largest ever U.S. copper deposit, and the EPA has preemptively drafted an environmental assessment of the nearby Bristol Bay watershed, which it seems bent on using to preemptively deny a permit to develop this resource.
“Without significant reform to our mine-permitting process, the U.S. will lack the resources to build the windmills, weapons systems, solar panels and smart phones we’ll need to advance our economy and safeguard our security.”