U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has signed a secretarial order directing the initial steps to producing the first nationwide geological and topographical survey of the United States in modern history. The order also directs Interior bureaus to begin work on identifying immediate domestic sources for critical minerals.
“Right now the United States is almost completely reliant on foreign adversaries and competitors for many of the minerals that are deemed critical for our national and economic security. As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the risk this presents to our nation,” said Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The problem is we can’t fix the problem if we don’t know where the minerals are within our own boarders. Other nations are far ahead of us with mapping of their mineral resources, leading to private sector investment overseas rather than right here at home. Drafting a complete topographical and geographic survey of the United States is exactly the kind of task the USGS was created to do.”
“Our nation’s growing dependence on foreign minerals is a distinct threat to our economy, our national defense, and our international competitiveness,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said. “We need to improve all aspects of the supply chain – from geologic surveying to permitting reform – so that our nation produces more of the minerals that are fundamental to energy, health care, manufacturing, and other technologies. I welcome Secretary Zinke’s determination to strengthen our nation’s mineral security, and will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure we complement these efforts with legislative action.”
“A country blessed with abundant mineral resources shouldn’t be mineral-dependent and vulnerable,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). “This is an economic and security threat that’s festered across administrations for too long. I look forward to continuing our work with the Trump administration to unlock our domestic mineral potential and reverse this disturbing trend.”
The United States is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to our national security and economic prosperity. This dependency on foreign sources creates a strategic vulnerability to U.S. industry and the military if supplies of these key minerals were disrupted by foreign government action, natural disasters, or other events.
Despite the presence of significant mineral deposits of some of these materials across the United States, our miners and producers are currently limited by a lack of comprehensive, machine-readable data concerning topographical, geological, and geophysical surveys; permitting delays; and the potential for extended litigation when permits are issued.
Western Caucus and House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals Chairman Paul Gosar said, “Our reliance on foreign nations of questionable stability and demonstrated hostile intentions towards the United States for critical minerals constitutes a serious national security problem. This situation has come about even though the United States could readily procure the vast majority of the 23 minerals identified in the USGS Report domestically and sustainably, were we only to choose to greenlight development of our bounty of mineral resources. At a recent hearing of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee which I chair, I emphasized the extent to which arbitrary mineral withdrawals and a federal bureaucracy loathe to authorize mineral projects have brought us to this precarious juncture. But there is a way forward. I applaud President Trump and Secretary Zinke for taking action to advance American energy dominance and strengthen our national security.”
The SecretarialOrder directs the following action:
- Direct the United States Geological Survey to:
- Identify new sources of critical minerals;
- Ensure that our miners and producers have electronic access to the most advanced topographic, geologic, and geophysical data, with appropriate limitations to protect critical infrastructure data such as those related to national security areas
- Direct the Bureau of Land Management and USGS to within 30 days provide a list of minerals defined as “critical minerals” to the Secretary of the Interior. Within 30 days after receiving the list of critical minerals from the BLM and USGS, the Secretary will coordinate with the Department of Defense and consult with the heads of other relevant agencies and departments to establish the final list.
- Within 60 days of the completion of the critical minerals list, provide a plan to the Secretary to improve the topographic, geological, and geophysical mapping of the United States, and make the resulting data and metadata electronically accessible to support private sector mineral exploration of critical minerals.
- Within 60 days of the signing of the Executive Order, each bureau head with land management responsibilities shall submit to the Secretary a list of recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing leases, accessing critical mineral resources, and increasing critical mineral discovery, production, and domestic refining.
- Within 60 days of the signing of the Executive Order, each bureau head with land management responsibilities shall submit to the Secretary a list of recommended options for improving access and developing critical minerals.
“I applaud Secretary Zinke for initiating a review of the outdated, job-crushing policies that inhibit our ability to utilize our own mineral resources,” said Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). “Nevada is one of the most mineral rich locations on earth, and hard rock mining contributes to thousands of jobs in ourstate. In order to harness our nation’s true mineral potential and end our reliance on foreign production, we need to streamline and update these policies, and that’s why I authored legislation that would do just that. I thank Secretary Zinke for his leadership on this issue and his work to help allow Nevada and this country to enact a strategy to fully maximize our nation’s mineral potential.”
“I commend Secretary Zinke for his work to support our miners, streamline the permitting and review process, and enhance our national defense with this important order today,” said Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN). “Minnesota, like so many states across this great nation, is fully prepared to step up and help unleash America’s full mining potential which will improve national security, add jobs, bring economic prosperity and enhance the lives of every American. Additionally, our current environmental regulations ensure that we can secure critical minerals like copper and aluminum, while protecting our nation’s vast, beautiful landscape. I am glad that this administration agrees sound economic, environmental, and security policy can and should coexist.”
“I applaud Secretary Zinke’s efforts to end our reliance on foreign countries for minerals that are critically important to our economy and national defense. American companies need access to these minerals to remain competitive globally and the Department of Defense needs access to these minerals to defend our country,” said Senator James E. Risch (R-ID).
“This report highlights a critical problem that has gotten far less attention than it deserves,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force. “Many of our most important—and common—electronic devices require rare-earth metals such as yttrium, lanthanum, and gadolinium to function properly. Television sets, computer processors, and iPhones all incorporate these scarce elements, and the fact that the United States relies so heavily on other countries for so many of them makes our supply chain exceedingly vulnerable. We need a concerted effort here at home to boost recycling and, as appropriate, production of rare-earth minerals so that we have better control over crucial components of our supply chain.”
“Secretary Zinke has taken a critical step by highlighting how our national security is tied to our need to develop rare earth resources. This is an important issue, and one our office has been leading on in Congress. West Virginia University has been leading in this effort by conducting research on recovering rare earth elements from coal mine drainage,” said Congressman David B. McKinley (R-WV). “As they continue to refine this process, it has the potential to have a significant impact on West Virginia’s economy, and help reduce environmental impacts. I applaud Secretary Zinke’s leadership and look forward to working with him on this issue.”