US critical minerals bill to cut mine permitting to max 30 months approved

The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012 (H.R. 4402) was approved by the US Congress on Thursday.

The vote was 256 to 160 for the Republican-led bill, with 22 Democrats also voting in favour of the bill designed primarily to speed up permitting for mining projects.

Under the bill, all federal agencies involved have to make an effort to cut down on delays in the mining or exploration permitting process.

The lead agency responsible for issuing the permit would appoint a project lead to coordinate and consult with other agencies, project proponents and contractors and see to it that the whole process not take more than 30 months.

The most controversial aspect of the bill is the ability of the lead agency to decide proposed projects are not subject to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards, if other bodies involved in the process "ensure that environmental factors are taken into account."

The act also calls for civil suits against granted permits to be filed within 60 days.

While the Obama administration has not vowed to veto the bill, H.R. 4402 would likely die a quiet death in the Democrat-led US Senate.