U.S. Republican lawmakers have renewed a push for federal critical minerals policies in light of the coronavirus pandemic, saying President Donald Trump should lift a mineral withdrawal near the Grand Canyon in Arizona, adjust federal oversight of uranium mining pollution and fast-track permitting of mineral refineries as part of future economic recovery plans.
On April 17, a group of 21 House Republicans including House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., wrote to Trump requesting the president “undo” a mineral withdrawal, or land withdrawal, covering more than 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.
The mineral withdrawal, established in 2012 by the Obama administration, clarifies the authorities held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Nuclear Regulatory Commission over regulating groundwater pollution from in situ leach uranium mining.
U.S. uranium producers and their allies raised these issues before the pandemic began as the industry sought regulatory relief after years of cratered uranium prices and unfavorable market dynamics.
The lawmakers also requested the president use existing authorities to bolster domestic mineral refining capacity, including chartering domestic mineral cooperatives or using the Defense Production Act to expedite permitting for refinery construction.