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NEPA reform provides critical step forward to address permitting inefficiencies

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Global Mining Review,

The National Mining Association (NMA) has recently applauded the timely and much-needed reform to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) governing regulations.

The mining industry takes extraordinary steps to protect the environment, the communities in which it operates and its workforce at every step of the mining process from exploration, to development, production, reclamation and closure.

“These reforms will better align NEPA with its intended purpose: to balance societal needs with world-leading environmental protections,” said Rich Nolan, NMA President and CEO. “The mining industry – the very front end of the nation’s material supply chains – has long suffered from a broken permitting process that can largely be linked back to NEPA’s well-documented historical problems. These overdue reforms improve a process that has become a barrier to rebuilding and modernising essential infrastructure of all kinds.”

The NMA welcomes changes that bring clarity to NEPA regulations by refining definitions of key terms, providing page limits and timeframes to ensure expedient reviews and allowing for greater applicant participation in the process under strong agency oversight. Additional reforms that streamline and synchronise decisions involving multiple agencies, and make more efficient use of previous reviews when conducting subsequent related reviews, will significantly reduce redundant and duplicative agency review. NMA also strongly endorses more focused reviews.

While the US is rich in mineral resources, permitting delays and regulatory uncertainty hamper investment in its domestic resources and increase its reliance on imports. The US government’s process for securing the necessary mine permits now takes close to 10 years – one of the longest mine permitting processes in the world. By comparison, permitting processes in Australia and Canada, which have similar environmental standards and practices as the US, take between 2 - 3 years. Permitting delays have been called the most significant risk to mining projects in the US.

The country’s import dependence for key mineral commodities has doubled over the past two decades. The US is 100% import dependent for 17 key mineral resources, and more than 50% import dependent for an additional 29 mineral commodities – even though it has significant mineral deposits of some of these commodities within its borders. Less than half of the mineral needs of US manufacturing are met from domestically mined resources. As has been seen during the pandemic, key domestic industries ranging from healthcare, to energy and defence have seen their supply chains disrupted. Bringing critical supply chains and industries home has become a bipartisan priority and these reforms are an important step to do just that.

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US mining news National Mining Association news