US must reform rare-earth permits, rules – group

03 April 2013 19:28  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--With economic and military demand likely to grow in the next few years, the US must reform its mine-permit process and safety regulations to get to the vast underground store of rare earths materials that could drive growth, add jobs and bring revenues to state budgets, the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) said on Wednesday.

States with rare-earth resources could increase gross state product by almost $40bn (€31bn), add nearly 3,600 shovel-ready jobs and improve state revenues by $724m by simplifying the approval process for rare-earth mining projects, the group said.

“Rare earths and rare-earth mining are crucial to modern life, providing critical components of everything from iPhones to computers, medical CAT scans, defence equipment, wind turbines and other forms of green energy,” said NCPA Adjunct Fellow Tom Tanton. “Yet, the United States depends on other countries, some of which are not very friendly, for these elements, importing more than 96% of its rare earths.”

Tanton added that Australia and Canada set good examples of how the permit process and regulations could be done, and their approval time is dramatically shorter than the average seven years it takes in the US.

“The US needs to combine redundant and multiple agencies into a single ‘one-stop-shopping’ authority,” Tanton said. “Where possible, we can speed up the process by reviewing permit requests simultaneously instead of concurrently. It is economically foolish to rely on other countries for such critical minerals, when we have a bounty of them in the US available for use."

In the past year, China has been accused by the US of increasingly restricting foreign access to its strategic raw materials, while Beijing is moving to control critical resources elsewhere in a way that poses serious concerns for US industry and national defence.

Rare-earths and other critical minerals are critical to wide range of manufactured products, including renewable-energy products, magnets, chemicals, refrigeration systems, catalysts for petroleum refining, defence applications, consumer electronics, hybrid-car batteries and many more.

The NCPA’s full study can be found here.

($1 = €0.78)

By: Brian Balboa
+1 713 525 2653

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