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The Domestic Production of Critical Minerals for National Security

The Domestic Production of Critical Minerals for National Security  

By Congressman Mike Simpson

Washington, D.C. – “As the new year and a new Congress begin, we have an opportunity to set our nation on a course toward energy independence and future prosperity.  During my time in Congress, I have grown deeply concerned about the fact that the United States is far too reliant on unfriendly foreign nations for the resources we need to fuel our economy.  This dependence puts our economy and our national security at risk.  We all felt the impact of our dependence on foreign energy sources this past year, as gas prices fluctuated wildly and the cost of groceries and household goods grew ever more expensive.  But our reliance on unfriendly governments for the critical minerals we need to power modern technologizes is also a huge crisis just waiting in the wings.  We can and should be producing these crucial resources domestically, but the restrictions and lengthy delays currently in place in the permitting process make it nearly impossible to access our domestic supply of critical minerals. It is time to take control over something as fundamental to our economy and national security as critical mineral production.

“Critical minerals, such as antimony and cobalt, are crucial for our national defense, the development of new technologies, and the batteries we use in our cell phones and laptops.  Instead of developing them at home, we depend completely on sourcing them from places like Russia and China.  These countries could, at any time, cut off the critical mineral supply pipeline to the U.S., leaving us without the essential technologies we rely on in our everyday lives and jeopardizing our national security.

“It sounds ominous, this dangerous reliance on unfriendly foreign nations for resources we depend on every day—and for good reason.  But we can take back control of this situation.  These minerals are found in the United States, on our own public lands—in fact, Idaho is rich in both cobalt and antimony—and we have the capability to mine them in sophisticated and environmentally responsible ways.  Now we need to get out of our own way by streamlining the permitting process that would allow domestic production of critical minerals to begin. 

“I’m not the only one who sees how important it is that we declare independence over critical mineral production and knows the vital role Idaho should play.  The Department of Defense recently awarded a grant to Idaho’s Perpetua Resources to conduct environmental and engineering studies at the Stibnite-Gold project in central Idaho.  This area is rich in antimony, a mineral that is used for everything from nuclear weapons to armor-piercing bullets and explosives to night vision goggles and other military equipment our servicemen and women need.  The DOD grant would move the Stibnite-Gold project through the arduous permitting process so that domestic production of antimony could finally begin. 

“This underscores the importance of the reforms I’ve been calling for over the past several years:  we need to streamline the permitting process for domestic mines in Idaho and elsewhere that have the potential to provide our country with a domestic source of these critical minerals.  We are moving in the right direction:  cobalt mining has recently resumed at the Jervois Mine in Salmon, Idaho, for the first time in decades—currently the only cobalt mine in the country.  I’m encouraged by this forward movement, and now we need to capture this momentum.  These resources are critical now and into the future, as the emerging technologies on which our future economy will depend are being developed.  This is why I have repeatedly supported legislation to reform the onerous critical mineral permitting process and called for the Administration to stop getting in the way of domestic mineral production so that the United States can take back control of the resources we need for the technology on which we depend every day.  As the 118th Congress begins, I intend to use my position to take concrete steps toward producing these critical minerals at home.”