Lack of critical minerals processing capacity U.S. ‘Achilles heel’ – Wyden – by Dorothy Kosich (Mineweb.com – January 29, 2014)

 

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U.S. Senate leaders say the nation must address inadequate U.S. mining processing capacity as well as promoting domestic mining of critical and strategic minerals.

RENO (MINEWEB) – During a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday on S. 1600, the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, noted, “A crucial but too often neglected part of this [U.S. critical minerals] supply conversation is mineral processing.”

“Although mining is an important part of the supply equation, and S. 1600 encourages federal agencies to expedite permitting for new critical minerals extraction, it is the lack of processing capacity—transforming the raw materials that we pull out of the ground into the high-purity compounds needed for manufacturing—it is that challenge that is my concern and the concern of many experts,” he observed.

“That is our Achilles’ heel,” Wyden stressed. “Mining more ore in the U.S. will not reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers if the U.S. doesn’t develop the processing and refining technologies and infrastructure needed to turn that ore into useful products and to recycle them at the end of their useful lives.”

Ranking committee member, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, responded, “I appreciate particularly your recognition that if we don’t have the processing capacity and ability, we are still left in a very vulnerable state.”

“We certainly have very strong supplies [of critical minerals] in my home state, and an opportunity to gain access to then. We’re looking at it very critically,” she noted.

“The problem though, is that we would then have to ship it to China to be processed, so once again, they have the leverage that we are trying to get around here,” Murkowski observed.

“All along the supply chain, our mineral-related capabilities have slipped,” she said. “Unless we take meaningful action, and soon, our economy and security could be jeopardized.”

“Our colleagues in the House have presented ideas to fix this problem,” Murkowski noted adding, “We should consider them fairly, just as we expect they will consider ours.”

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