Profitability, Not Permitting, Is the Problem

June 9, 2011
04:16 PM
Statement of Chairman Bingaman at the Energy Subcommittee Hearing
Key Problems with Domestic Production of Rare Earth and Critical Minerals
“I would start with the general proposition that unless we diagnose a problem correctly, we cannot fix it.  In that context, I am not convinced that the central problem affecting the rare earth element industry is the permitting process.  I don’t think the key problem here is bureaucratic intransigence; I don’t doubt there is bureaucratic intransigence, because there always has been in every bureaucracy I’ve encountered, but that’s not the main problem. 
“The main problem is that it hasn’t been profitable to mine rare earths and other critical minerals domestically.  We have these elements, these minerals here in our country, but it hasn’t been profitable.  What we need to do is ensure that there’s going to be a reasonable price for these minerals going forward in the world market. 
“The Chinese are consolidating their production of rare earth elements in a single company, and that to me is a little bit concerning as well; this makes it a lot easier for them to ensure that the supply and price are what they want it to be for purposes of the world market. 
“I think that if we are too focused on changing the permitting process, we may discover that the price of these elements may still drop through the floor one of these months, and anyone in this business will shut down in a hurry.  I think that issue, which relates to incentives for production, deserves our close attention.”
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