WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation this week to improve the quality and timeliness of the federal permitting and review processes for critical mineral production on federal lands.

“American manufacturing and technological development can’t be beholden to the whims of foreign nations, especially when we have these resources in our own back yard,” said Senator Cramer. “If we don’t develop critical minerals in the United States, we force ourselves to rely on adversarial countries like China who have little-to-no labor or environmental protections. Our bill would responsibly develop these resources while prioritizing American workers, reducing emissions, and safeguarding our economy and national security.”

Although there is $82.3 billion worth of nonfuel mineral production in the United States, the market for rare earth elements – a component of the critical minerals list – is dominated by China. Approximately 71 percent of rare earths globally are produced by China, and 74 percent of the United States’ supplies are imported from China. China also produces roughly 90 percent of the world’s rare earth elements and holds 85 percent of the world’s processing capacity of rare earth elements.

Production in the United States is low in-part because it has some of the world’s longest mineral permitting times, sometimes exceeding 10 years even before likely legal challenges. To combat this, the legislation seeks improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal permitting and review process by requiring federal agencies to: 

  • Establish clear timelines for decisions regarding applications, operating plans, leases, licenses, permits, and other use authorizations for critical mineral-related activities on federal land.
  • Create clear, quantifiable permitting performance goals and to track progress toward those goals.
  • Engage in early collaboration with agencies, stakeholders, projects sponsors, and to consult with state, local, and tribal governments to resolve concerns.
  • Provide clear and logical ways to make the process more cost-effective and timely.

During the budget reconciliation process earlier this year, Senator Cramer supported a successful effort – also led by Senator Murkowski – to oppose policies which will increase our reliance on energy or critical mineral imports from foreign countries who have worse environmental or labor standards than the United States. The senator also helped secure language in last December’s spending package to establish a national program aimed at prioritizing the domestic deposits and production of critical minerals and reducing dependence on China. 

Joining Senator Cramer as an original cosponsor of Senator Murkowski’s bill are Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), James Risch (R-ID), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and James Lankford (R-OK). 

Learn more here.