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Background:

Today the Biden Administration released a report addressing how the United States can meet increased minerals demand associated with the ongoing transition to low-carbon renewable energy. The report, prepared in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14017, “America’s Supply Chains”, calls for an aggressive approach to mineral recycling, an overhaul of the archaic General Mining Law of 1872, and rules to help ensure that any mining is conducted according to the strongest environmental and labor standards—and only after the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities and Tribal communities. This echoes Earthworks’ recommendation that the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service in the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, respectively, reform the rules that govern hardrock mining to better protect mining-affected communities and their environments until Congress passes comprehensive 1872 Mining Law reform.

Statement of Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel:

“Today’s report recognizes the two key solutions to responsibly source the minerals we need. First, we must encourage the reuse and recycling of minerals to decrease the demand for new mining. Second, we must update our antiquated mining law and rules so that any new extraction minimizes harmful impacts to climate, communities, taxpayers and the environment.”

Key excerpts from the report:

“Recycling offers many benefits to critical materials sustainability. By developing a circular economy for advanced battery materials, the United States can capture this material back into the economy and reduce the need for virgin extraction while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Given the historical legacy of mining in the United States, particularly on indigenous lands, the Federal Government will hold any new and existing raw mineral production to the strongest environmental and labor standards, and production will come only after meaningful engagement with affected communities, including government-to-government consultation with Tribal nations. Significant updates to the laws and regulations governing domestic resource extraction and mining may be required to ensure that these standards can be achieved.”

“Congress should enact comprehensive reform of the GML (General Mining Law) of 1872 and USDA and DOI should strengthen the regulations governing mining on public lands.” 

“IRMA (Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance) may provide a method for U.S. companies and the Federal Government to ensure that minerals are being sourced from mines with robust environmental, social, and financial responsibility policies, and also could provide a model for responsible development of additional mines in the United States.”

Brendan McLaughlin, (206) 892-8832, bmclaughlin@earthworksaction.org