Joint Comments Submitted to the Interior Department on Draft List of Critical Minerals

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From the comments

As organizations and individuals who care about our waters, we write to comment on the Draft List of Critical Minerals published in the Federal Register, February 16, 2018 (83 Fed Reg. 7065 (2018)), pursuant to Executive Order 13817 (EO 13817) “A Federal Strategy To Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.” (December 20, 2017) and Secretarial Order 3359 (SO 3359). We are very concerned this process will result in weakening public participation and our bedrock environmental laws, and harm to our western waters and wildlife in the name of promoting mining.

We understand that metals are important and used in the manufacture of items we use every day, including minerals needed to ensure a swift transition to renewable energy. However, needing a mineral does not mean we need mining. Instead, thanks to reuse and recycling, needing a mineral no longer means we need additional mining. This is particularly important given the harms and costs mining has on communities and the environment. Extracting these minerals from mines damages water quality, frequently forever. The specter of critical minerals should not be used as cover for a gift to the mining industry, further weakening community and environmental protections. Accordingly, proposing to remove, reduce, or otherwise minimize environmental review and disclosure of potential harms, and/or the applicability of environmental laws and regulations will exacerbate harms to communities and the environment from an industry that already has caused pollution in 40% of western U.S. headwaters.

Below are a number of concerns with the approach to establishing a list of draft critical minerals. These concerns include, but are not limited to, taxpayers carrying the financial burdens of mining pollution, the draft critical minerals list is arbitrary and capricious, and that the focus should be on investing in robust recycling programs to achieve mineral security, not stripping laws and regulations that protect communities and the environment.