Manchin, Energy Committee Holds Mineral Supply Chain Hearing, Slams Mining Law

June 24, 2020

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the impact of COVID-19 on mineral supply chains and the role of those supply chains in economic and national security. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing America’s supply chains.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen serious breakdowns in supply chains, as evidenced by empty shelves at department stores and long backorders for popular products. Critical minerals lie at the heart of many of these supply chains. Our Committee has held several hearings on critical minerals this Congress and China’s tight grip on many of the minerals we need for both everyday items and security needs has been a reoccurring theme in these discussions,’ Ranking Member Manchin said.  “We should be focusing on investing in innovative mining and mineral processing practices, developing viable substitutes for critical materials that can be found in our backyard, and implementing smart policies for recycling critical materials. All of these things can reduce our reliance on foreign imports while creating jobs right here in the United States. I believe that the mineral security title that the Chairman and I agreed to as part of the American Energy Innovation Act is a fair and reasonable step in the right direction.”

Ranking Member Manchin questioned witnesses about the impact outdated mining investment laws have on access to minerals.

“Countries around the world are considering changes to encourage investment from the mining sector and/or evaluate its production and revenue sharing regimes. Yet, here in the United States we have the General Mining Law of 1872, which frankly is nothing short of an embarrassment to our country. If we are serious about reducing our import reliance for critical minerals, our mining laws need to be updated. We need to improve the regulatory scheme for mines in low-risk yet high-grade areas, end the claim-patent system, and help the mining industry put themselves in a better light in the public by establishing a royalty to share the profits with the American people. Can you please speak to how mining laws impact a countries ability to attract investment and reduce mineral dependence?” Ranking Member Manchin asked.

“To attract investment, people look to countries like Canada and Austrialia as mining-friendly jurisdictions. The United States is not known as a mining-friendly jurisdiction, especially if you’re trying to develop lithium, cobalt, or graphite mines. It’s just not on the radar. I think a wholesale look at mining laws specific to critical minerals should be separated out in some way to help investment. At the moment, everything is treated as one. It’s stifling American mining, it’s actually detracting a lot of investments,” said Simon Moores, Managing Director, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

The hearing featured witnesses from the U.S. Geological Survey, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Umicore USA Inc., Hudson Institute, and Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. To read their testimony click here.  

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.