In his introduction of the Monitoring and Investigating Nations Exploiting States (MINES) Act (H.R. 8911) this week, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) emphasized a need to maintain and monitor access to minerals critical to the national economy or security, no matter their origin.
Earlier this year, the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2022 report from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) determined that the nation is completely net import reliant on 14 of the 32 critical minerals or mineral groups defined by the Energy Act of 2020. Each of these has supply chains susceptible to disruption yet serves essential functions for U.S. manufacturing. The Chinese and Russian stakes in those same minerals are of particular concern to Calvert and his co-sponsor, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR).
According to the same USGS report, China was the leading producer of 16 of the 32 listed critical minerals.
“Reliable access to critical minerals is essential to America’s economic and national security,” Calvert said. “The MINES Act will give the United States additional tools to assess the growing exploitation of critical minerals in small states by China and Russia. America must be clear-eyed about the Chinese and Russian aggression when it comes to consolidating critical mineral resources.”
While the MINES Act neither authorizes nor advances any punishments for exploitation, it focuses on information gathering. For the next five years, it would require annual reports on Russian, Chinese and state-sponsored companies planning, financing, and operating critical minerals mines in countries the U.S. relies upon for mineral imports. In addition to evaluating the security risks this represents, it would also require the Department of the Interior to monitor and report on the involvement of Chinese-sponsored companies in developing critical mineral resources in Afghanistan, in particular.
The new authority would also be granted to the USGS to update the list of critical minerals more frequently to adjust for changing geopolitical conditions. Currently, the list updates in three-year cycles – but this was called into question by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as the USGS was unable to update its listings to reflect any impacts of that war.
“It’s hard to overstate just how tight of a stranglehold Russia and China are developing on resources supply chains worldwide,” Westerman, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said. “While the Biden administration locks up sustainable mining here in the U.S., our adversaries are wasting no time stepping into that void and controlling critical minerals around the globe. As our daily lives become more and more dependent on these minerals, supply chain instability becomes more and more of a national security issue.”
Although just introduced, the MINES Act is backed by the American Exploration & Mining Association, as well as the Uranium Producers of America.