National view: Slow permitting devastating US mining, manufacturing – by Kevin Kearns (Duluth News Tribune – February 7, 2016)

Kevin Kearns is president of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Business and Industry Council, a national business organization that advocates for U.S. manufacturers.

Imagine if significant gold deposits were found in northern Minnesota. That would be a boon for Minnesota mining, since gold is in great demand for use in such diverse products as smartphones and solar panels.

But what if it took 10 years for a mining firm to get the approvals needed to start extracting this gold? Imagine the disappointment in terms of lost job opportunities and lost tax revenue.

It’s not a far-fetched possibility, however, to expect a lengthy process before Minnesota could possibly enjoy any newfound gold wealth. Delays in mine permitting, like those experienced with PolyMet’s attempts to open a copper-nickel mine, can pose hefty bureaucratic challenges for even the most valuable mining projects.

Minnesota already has seen its share of mining jobs lost due to subsidized global competition. The idling of taconite mines on the Iron Range is, in part, due to China’s dumping of steel on the world market. Not only has China chosen to dump product in an effort to boost exports, but it continues to prop up its steel industry with massive energy subsidies that are actionable under world trade law.

In essence, this points to a larger problem. Unlike Beijing, Washington fails to understand just how important manufacturing and mining are as key wealth-generating industries. What Washington urgently needs to do is overhaul both trade policies and cumbersome regulations that hinder domestic manufacturing and, by extension, America’s mining sector.

The voters get it. The American people already understand that unless the United States maintains a strong and diverse manufacturing base, the nation’s overall economic standing will suffer.

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