U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing domestic critical mineral mining, processing, refining, and reprocessing. 

The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Steve Fortier, director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Mr. Scott Melbye, president of the Uranium Producers of America; Ms. Julie Padilla, chief regulatory officer of Twin Metals Minnesota; Ms. Abigail Wulf, vice president of the Critical Minerals Strategy and director of the Center for Critical Minerals Strategy at Securing America’s Future Energy; and Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University. 

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate your partnership and your dedication to the work that’s being done today and for holding this very critical hearing on an issue so important to our nation and our nation’s future.

“Upon taking office, President Biden returned the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement – one that I view as deeply flawed and unfair.

“The president pledged to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent below the levels from where they were in 2005 by the year 2030.

“To achieve these objectives, the president says he wants to make our nation’s power sector carbon-free by 2035.

“He also aims to ensure that so-called ‘zero emissions vehicles’ make up 50 percent of new vehicle sales just eight years from now.

“In short, President Biden wants to dramatically increase the number of wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles in the country.

“And that means a massive increase in the demand for critical minerals.

“Last year, the International Energy Agency published a report on critical minerals.

“It included two noteworthy charts.

“The first chart shows how electric vehicles require far more minerals than vehicles with internal combustion engines.

“The second chart from the International Energy Agency shows how wind turbines and solar panels require far more minerals than nuclear, natural gas, and coal-fired power plants.

“New demand for minerals can’t only come from the United States.

“It will come from the entire world.

“The World Bank recently looked at the demand for copper.

“It found that to meet the world’s demand for copper in the next 25 years, the world will have to mine the same amount of copper that the world has mined in the last 5,000 years.

“Mr. Chairman – these figures are astonishing.

“Despite his climate pledges, President Biden has done nothing meaningful to boost American mineral production.

“In fact, the Biden administration has only made it more difficult to access minerals here at home in America.

“In March of last year, the U.S. Forest Service rescinded an environmental impact statement for a land swap necessary for a major copper mine in Arizona.

“In August of last year, the Bureau of Land Management proposed withdrawing 10 million acres in Wyoming from mineral exploration.

“The list goes on.

“In January of this year, Interior Secretary Haaland cancelled leases for a new nickel and copper mine in Minnesota.

“And last month, the Department of the Interior said it would withdraw a right-of-way for a road necessary for a new copper mine in Alaska.

“The Department also proposed designating critical habitat for a flower that complicates the permitting of a new lithium mine in Nevada.

“Mr. Chairman – President Biden’s war on American energy isn’t confined to oil, natural gas, and coal.

“His policies are also killing the development of resources needed for the alternatives the president says he wants.

“Currently, it takes on average 10 years to permit a new mine in the United States.

“He wants all of this in place in eight years. It just doesn’t add up.

“We have one of the lengthiest permitting processes in the world.

“Canada and Australia – which have robust environmental and safety standards – permit new mines within 2 to 3 years.

“There is no reason we should not be able to replicate their success here in America.

“The administration is talking about using the Defense Production Act for minerals.

“Unless the president streamlines permitting, we should not expect to see any meaningful increase in American mineral production.

“Currently, the United States is 100% dependent on imports of 17 key minerals.

“We are over 50% dependent on imports of another 29 minerals.

“If President Biden doesn’t reverse course and stand up to mining opponents in his own party, this will only get worse.

“It will mean that we will continue to fund our adversaries as we are doing today with Russia.

“We have seen this all too clearly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“While President Biden finally banned imports of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal, we continue to import Russian uranium.

“President Biden can and should ban imports of Russian uranium.

“He should also help boost American uranium production.

“As with other critical minerals, we have the resources here in the United States.

“We just need the political will to use them.

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”

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