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Interior to Support Critical Minerals Strategy through Faster Permitting, Better Information, Nationwide Examination of Minerals Potential

WASHINGTON – Today, the Trump Administration released, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure a Reliable Supply of Critical Minerals,” to make America’s economy and defense more secure. The strategy directs the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to locate domestic supplies of those minerals, ensure access to information necessary for the study and production of minerals, and expedite permitting for minerals projects.

“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, today’s federal strategy lays out a blueprint for America to once again be a leader in the critical minerals sector,” said Secretary David Bernhardt. “As with our energy security, the Trump Administration is dedicated to ensuring that we are never held hostage to foreign powers for the natural resources critical to our national security and economic growth. The Department will work expeditiously to implement the President's strategy from streamlining the permitting process to locating domestic supplies of minerals.”

This map shows the countries that supply mineral commodities for which the United States was more than 50 percent import reliant
This map shows the countries that supply mineral commodities for which the United States was more than 50 percent import reliant in 2018. USGS graphic. Source: USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries 2019.

Currently, the U.S. relies on other countries completely for more than a dozen of minerals that are vital to our economy and security. These minerals are used for things like cell phones, computers, automobiles, airplanes, ships, and many other products that are critical to our economy and security.

In 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals. This Executive Order called on agencies across the federal government to develop a strategy to reduce the Nation’s susceptibility to critical mineral supply disruptions.

In May of 2018, DOI took the first step in the strategy, releasing a list of 35 minerals deemed critical to the U.S. economy and security, based on a methodology by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). This list forms the foundation of the full strategy, which entails a number of other actions that the Department will take.

stibnite specimen
Specimen of stibnite, an ore mineral of antimony, one of the 35 critical mineral commodities. Antimony compounds help to prevent skin burns, increase battery life, and refine the glass used in cell-phone screens.

Faster Permitting
Mining remains the most important method for acquiring critical minerals, and Federal lands provide significant opportunities for mining. Prolonged Federal permitting and land management policies have inhibited access to and the development of domestic critical minerals, which has contributed to an increased reliance on foreign sources of minerals.

To reduce unnecessary permitting delays and increase access to critical minerals, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for onshore mineral rights and mining on lands managed by BLM, will undertake a comprehensive review of its permitting and land classifications, as well as its management plans. The BLM administers more than 245 million surface acres of public land and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate and is committed to implementing efficiencies for the environmentally responsible development of critical minerals on Federal lands. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will undertake a similar review for mineral permitting in the Federal Offshore and Exclusive Economic Zone.

Image: Mineral Stains at the No Name Prospect
USGS scientist Art Bookstrom looks at greenish copper stain and pale pink cobalt bloom on limonite-stained meta-siltite and meta-argillite at the No Name prospect, near Iron Creek, in the southeastern part of the Idaho cobalt belt, in east-central Idaho.

Finding New Sources of Domestic Minerals
The U.S. is blessed with an abundance of mineral resources, but many of the easy-to-find deposits have been discovered. New deposits, both onshore and offshore, are increasingly located deeper underground and are more difficult to find. To find these new deposits of critical minerals, the USGS has embarked on a new nationwide program of surface and subsurface mapping – the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative – to better inform the country about its critical minerals potential. The BOEM has initiated a complementary effort to better evaluate the nation’s offshore mineral potential.

Mining is not the only way to secure critical minerals. Alternatives, such as recycling, processing mine waste, extraction from seawater, or even filtering them from energy byproducts, could prove valuable sources for critical minerals. USGS will assist other Federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture and DOI bureaus like the BLM and BOEM, with evaluating these unconventional methods for bolstering the traditional supplies of critical minerals.

Image: Low-Level Flights in Southeast Missouri Will Look at Geology and Mineral Resources
A Piper Navajo airplane with auxiliary wingtip pods and tail stinger magnetometers will study the rocks within the St. Francois Mountains in southeast Missouri. The information flights like these collect help scientists create mineral and other geologic maps.

Better Information
Managing the supply of critical minerals depends on using the best information. Data on mining, processing, and transporting critical minerals are essential to strengthening domestic supply chains, and the USGS will continue to supply that data through a variety of authoritative scientific publications. Those data inform biennial re-evaluations of which minerals are critical to the United States.

In addition, the USGS will conduct at least one multi-commodity critical mineral resource assessment every two years, supplying the results to Federal land managers and the public. Meanwhile, BOEM will work with partners such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a method for assessing critical mineral potential in the Federal Offshore and Exclusive Economic Zone.

About Interior
DOI is entrusted with the conservation and management of the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people and future generations, which includes more than 500 million acres of Federal lands and resources.

The original news release can be found at the Department of the Interior's Newsroom.

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