Tomorrow, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold an oversight hearing entitled “EPA vs. American Mining Jobs: The Obama Administration’s Regulatory Assault on the Economy”.
Of course, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has had limited opportunity to assault the economy since the government shutdown. And one could ask whether the shutdown itself hurts the economy much worse than anything coming out of the EPA.
But that is beside the point. The point is that despite what we hear from the House Majority, mining companies love spending their money in the United States. Don’t take my word for it; ask the mining companies.
Every year the Metals Economics Group publishes a survey of mining exploration investment around the world.
Their survey results reveal that mineral exploration investment in the U.S. has increased steadily since 1992. Furthermore, as the chart above suggests, the real driver of mining investment is the price of gold. The Obama Administration does not affect the market for precious metals.
In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mining jobs have increased since President Obama took office:
In addition to the Metals Economics Group survey, the Fraser Institute– a center-right Canadian think tank- conducts an annual survey of mining companies that draws a similar conclusion. Of nearly 100 mining jurisdictions around the world, the United States has three states ranked in the top ten for mining investment and four in the top twenty. Furthermore, the survey concludes that current mining regulations actually benefit mining investment rather than deter it.
The reason is simple. Mining companies, like all investors, crave certainty. The United States has a mature democracy, stable currency, courts that enforce contracts, and a predictable, well-established process for environmental review of mining projects. Oh, and they also have the 1872 Mining Law. So, not only do they receive royalty-free minerals from our public lands, we also give them tax breaks just for the privilege. Not bad if you can get it.
If the Committee has an interest in gutting environmental oversight of mining — and forcing communities and the environment to bear the costs of mining that companies now pay — the Committee should just say that. Jobs are up and so is mining investment in this country. Politicians do not need a pretext for supporting mining corporations over communities. But if they really want one, the least they could do is come up with one that is accurate.