Energy & Environment

Interior Department: US must update century-old mining law to meet climate goals

The Interior Department said Tuesday that Congress and the executive branch must modernize a 150-year-old hard rock mining law to speed domestic development of renewable energy.

A federal interagency working group is making more than 60 recommendations to modernize the permitting and development process, part of a Biden administration push to improve supply chains.

“To meet the needs of the clean energy economy while respecting our obligations to Tribal Nations, taxpayers, the environment, and future generations, we need a modernized approach to make sure mining in this country is sustainable, responsible and efficient,” Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to a whole-of-government effort in coordination with federal, state and local partners to update our mining policies and promote the sustainable and responsible domestic production of critical minerals.”  

Beaudreau is chairman of the Interior-led Interagency Working Group on Mining Laws, Regulations, and Permitting (IWG), which put together the recommendations.

The IWG report, released Tuesday, argued a “hard truth” is that meeting modern demand will be difficult without updating the 1872 General Mining Law that governs mineral mining.

Other challenges it identified included exponential growth in demand for critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt needed to meet climate goals, the United States’s overreliance on foreign nations for critical materials and a lack of resources and staff for agencies implementing reforms.

The Biden administration has sought to boost U.S. development of critical minerals necessary for electric vehicle batteries and solar panel components, rather than continuing to rely on imported material.

The administration has cast this development as vital to national security interests, with President Biden invoking the Defense Production Act last year for mineral development. 

Tags Joe Biden Tommy Beaudreau