US studies new law to speed up one of world's longest permitting processes

A new bill has been proposed to the US House of Representatives’ natural resource committee to speed up the permitting process for mining valuable minerals.

Hall Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association (NMA), presented the proposed regulation, named “Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012,” yesterday, emphasizing that it tackles one of the “highest hurdles” for domestic mining: permit delays.

“The length, complexity and uncertainty of the permitting process are the primary reasons investors give for not investing in US minerals mining," Quinn told the Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee, according to a NMA release.

"Delaying permits for mining projects is not a new problem," said Quinn. "What is new is the growing awareness of its implications for our nation, particularly in a highly competitive world economy in which the demand for minerals continues to grow, especially in fast growing economies led by China and India."

Quoting studies and reports by the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, consultancy Behre Dolbear, the US Geological Survey, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the US Department of Energy that all point to the harmful outcomes of the current permitting process for domestic minerals projects, Quinn summarized, "If U.S. mining cannot perform to its potential, the industry will become increasingly marginalized, and there will be severe consequences for our global competitiveness as we become more reliant upon extended and unstable supply chains for what we can produce here."

Quinn pointed to Canada and Australia as examples of governments that had taken the necessary steps to modernize their permitting regimes without changing environmental and other protections.

The bill will limit the total review process for issuing permits to 30 months unless signatories to the permitting timeline agree to an extension.