White House issues new permitting plan

New US permitting rules could unlock mining projects, including in critical minerals

 Biden issues new permits plan

Biden issues new permits plan

The plan will cover mining and critical minerals alongside other infrastructure projects such as highways and ports. 

"Responsible and sustainable domestic sourcing of critical minerals and materials will power our clean energy economy and reduce reliance on unreliable foreign supply chains," the White House said.

"Putting the Action Plan into place will result in better permitting outcomes, enhanced predictability for project sponsors, and increased accountability across Federal agencies to execute efficiently and effectively." 

President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act in March this year to spur development of criticial minerals on national security grounds.

The permitting plan also aims to revise the country's Mining Act of 1872. 

"[The plan would] Work to reform outdated permitting laws and regulations, such as the Mining Law of 1872, to establish stronger environmental, sustainability, safety, Tribal consultation, and community engagement standards," the White House said. 

US Senators have called for an overhaul of the 150-year old law. 

A series of mining projects in the US have been delayed by permitting issues with federal, state and local authorities.

Under the permitting plan, federal agencies will "create permitting schedules with clear timeline goals that are both ambitious and realistic, contain relevant milestones, and meet all requirements in applicable law to complete environmental review and permitting in a sound and timely manner."

The plan would also "increase transparency and accountability by tracking key project information, including timetables and milestones, on the Federal Permitting Dashboard," it said.

It would also identify the lead Federal agency that will be responsible for working with other agencies in the permitting processes to develop and implement coordination plans, interagency agreements, or other tools designed to ensure sustained and effective coordination and accountability. 

"The Action Plan outlines the Administration's strategy for ensuring that Federal environmental reviews and permitting processes are effective, efficient, and transparent, guided by the best available science to promote positive environmental and community outcomes, and shaped by early and meaningful public engagement," the White House said. 

The plan would also "develop and prepare new approaches to permitting and environmental review that help address common issues, eliminate duplication, and site and design projects in a way that reduces resource conflicts and incorporates a climate-smart approach." 

Key parts of the plan include leveraging the interagency Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council's expanded authorities under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve coordination among agencies, help avoid and resolve potential conflicts and bottlenecks, identify and share best practices, and accelerate information sharing and troubleshooting, it said. 

It also sees the convening of sector-specific teams of experts to facilitate interagency coordination on siting, permitting, supply chain, and related issues, and promote efficient and timely reviews. 

In early February, the Department of the Interior cancelled two mineral leases held by Antofagasta Minerals for the Twin Metals copper-nickel project in Minnesota. Further south, in Arizona, America's copper heartland, companies fare no better.  

Hudbay Minerals is appealing a US district court decision which put a stop to its proposed US$1.9 billion Rosemont project, which had received a Final Record of Decision (RoD) from the US Forest Service.


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