A mining policy for the future – by Hal Quinn (Milwaukee – Wisconsin Journal Sentinel – March 24, 2014)


Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association, the national trade association for America’s mining industry.

Ted Doheny, CEO of Milwaukee-based Joy Global Inc., recently alerted the nation that the minerals of tomorrow will be tougher to obtain than they have been in the past. If anyone would know, it would be the chief executive of a leading manufacturer of mechanized mining equipment used around the world. Doheny’s peers in numerous industries that depend upon those metals and minerals are also listening.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that more than 70% of the chief executives in auto, high-tech and other key industries fear future mineral supply scarcity. Increasing resource nationalism among mineral-rich nations such as China, Indonesia and South Africa — keen to ensure supplies for their own national industries — make these concerns a more imminent reality.

Unstable mineral and metal supply chains could threaten the tremendous economic jolt Wisconsin manufacturers such as Joy Global have provided the state in recent years. Local manufacturing firms are largely responsible for the significant job growth and economic opportunities that have abounded in Wisconsin since the recession and have helped to grow jobs in the state’s private sector at its fastest rate since 1994.

In fact, Wisconsin saw manufacturing jobs grow by 13,100 in 2013, second only to Michigan for manufacturing sector expansion nationwide last year. Unfortunately, these local companies — and the countless Wisconsinites they employ — could be at risk without access to the raw materials crucial to producing countless manufactured goods and technologies.

The U.S. mining industry has worked hard to ensure access and ready mineral supplies for the countless industries that rely on them. America’s miners have always reached further to find and produce the in-demand minerals of tomorrow. A leading workforce using advanced mining technology made by companies such as Joy Global allows the industry to meet those challenges. What is holding us back are policies from yesterday.

Today, it takes American mining companies seven to 10 years to get the permits necessary to build and operate mines. In Canada and Australia, the process takes only two to three years. This is one reason U.S. manufacturing companies import almost half of the metals and minerals needed for their products.

The United States is blessed with one of the largest mineral endowments in the world, valued at $6.2 trillion. Unfortunately, we are cursed with a Third World permitting system, tied for last place with Papua New Guinea. The process is outdated, entangled in red tape and fraught with duplication. It stalls projects, places manufacturing supply chains at risk and keeps high-wage jobs on the sidelines.

Fortunately, our elected representatives in Washington are beginning to realize the importance of minerals to American industries and understand the pressing need to modernize the permitting process so we are prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.

In September, the House passed the bipartisan National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, which would eliminate duplication and require better coordination between state and federal agencies — all without compromising rigorous environmental review. Now the Senate must act on similar legislation to secure strong and stable mineral supply chains for our industries and innovators in America.

For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/a-mining-policy-for-the-future-b99232078z1-252064331.html