Death by a thousand paper cuts
William Perry Pendley, a lawyer, is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver and author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today” (Regnery, 2013).
Much has been written about the impossibility of developing America’s rich natural resources given the opposition of the Obama administration, radical environmentalists and actively empathetic judges; it has been a horror show for oil pipelines, energy on federal lands and coal anywhere.
What happens, however, when the minerals at issue are deemed critical to national defense, key to green technology innovation and crucial to contesting Chinese combativeness and therefore: the stars align, the White House gives its support and environmental groups eschew the courthouse? Sadly, as an essential rare earth elements mine in Wyoming reveals: death by a thousand bureaucratic paper cuts.
In 1980, Congressman Jim Santini, Nevada Democrat, warned of America’s risky reliance for strategic and critical minerals on foreign sources, primarily Africa. Gov. Ronald Reagan, in his 1977 radio address, decried a “campaign” by the Soviet Union and Cuba “to achieve strategic dominance over Africa with all its mineral riches.”
In his landmark study, Santini — who died in September at 78 — listed: cobalt, chromium, manganese, platinum, and titanium, the “metallurgical Achilles’ heel of our civilization.” President Reagan made Santini’s report policy, in part by vetoing the lockup of mineral-rich land in wilderness areas, for which he took a beating from environmental groups, their Democratic allies and the media.
There are no dissenting views from the left about developing today’s key strategic and critical minerals — rare earth elements — like dysprosium, praseodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium. Popularly unknown, they are crucial to high-technology and transportation industries, telecommunications, America’s military, and future wind and solar projects.
China produces about 95 percent of the world’s rare earths; meanwhile, former Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping declared provocatively, “The Middle East has oil; China has rare earths.”
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