Trade groups urge U.S. to reinstate mining bureau: Reuters

(Credit: Joe Tegtmeyer)

A U.S. trade group is lobbying officials in Washington to reinstate a federal bureau overseeing mining, amidst an overall shift to electric vehicles (EVs) that requires metals for batteries.

The lobbying campaign to reboot the dormant Bureau of Mines was reported by Reuters on Friday, set to urge the U.S. Congress to launch the federal agency to improve regulation and support for the production of crucial EV battery minerals. The report, which cites three unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the matter, comes as the U.S. attempts to increase domestic supply chain for EV battery minerals such as lithium, copper, and others.

The lobbying campaign is being led by trade groups including the National Mining Association, the American Exploration & Mining Association, and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME), which argue that the scattered nature of mining regulation make it difficult to keep transparency and accountability in mining operations.

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“Mining decisions right now are spread across multiple government agencies, and that makes transparency and accountability very difficult,” says Rich Nolan,  head of the National Mining Association.

Currently, U.S. mining policies are scattered across multiple regulatory agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The mining bureau, which closed in 1996 following budget cuts, would give the U.S. government more power to create a cohesive set of policies, funding for research, and additional grants and loans to bolster the EV battery supply chain against major players in China.

Mitch Krebs, CEO of Silver mining company Coeur Mining, notes that the bureau could help bring increased efficiency to permitting and other areas of the industry.

“If a new bureau could bring some efficiency to a duplicative and inefficient permitting process, it could be a huge benefit to the country,” Krebs said.

The trade groups have said they don’t expect to succeed in reviving the bureau until the next Congress, which will run from 2025 to 2027. One source said that there was no current estimate for how much funding relaunching the bureau would require.

Others argue that the bureau didn’t previously oversee mine permitting, and the campaign faces the challenge of needing to be elevated to a cabinet-level federal agency—which would require congressional approval.

“The Bureau of Mines coming back into existence is not going to fix any of that,” says Michelle Michot Foss, a fellow of energy, minerals and materials at the Rice University Institute for Public Policy Rice University’s Baker. “There’s nothing serious on the table that would make the mining industry function better than it is now.”

Multiple U.S. suppliers and automakers have announced major lithium mining deals, though it could take years for these projects to get off the ground. Tesla has also been constructing a lithium refining facility in Corpus Christi, Texas, as just one example, and the company will also continue working with outside suppliers.

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Trade groups urge U.S. to reinstate mining bureau: Reuters
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