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House OKs bill to fast-track mineral mining, exploration

Keywords: Tags  mining, exploration, U.S. House of Representatives, National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, Mark Amodei, Texas Rare Earth Resources, mining legislation, Rey Mashayekhi

NEW YORK — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this past week that looks to expedite domestic mining and exploration and "more efficiently develop" mineral sources in the United States.

The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013 passed in the House by a 246-178 vote Sept. 18 and will move to the Senate for consideration. The legislation seeks to shorten the amount of time federal agencies have to approve mining and exploration permits and provide greater purview to local and state agencies with jurisdiction over proposed projects.

The bill’s findings note that the United States has become "increasingly dependent upon foreign sources" for mineral materials, and classifies the exploration and production of resources as "essential for economic growth."

A House Natural Resources Committee report on the matter found that domestic mineral exploration "stagnated or declined during most of the 1990s and 2000s" due in part to a "burdensome permitting process" that can last "over a decade to acquire all the government permits for a mineral production project."

In addition to shortening the exploration permitting process, the legislation would mandate federal agencies coordinating the process to defer to data and analysis from state agencies. It would also require civil lawsuits against permitting actions to be filed within 60 days of the contested action.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei (R., Nev.) and was overwhelmingly backed by House Republicans, while only 15 Democrats voted in favor.

The mining and exploration industry has also shown public support for the legislation, with Sierra Blanca, Texas-based Texas Rare Earth Resources Corp. welcoming the House’s passage of the bill as "a solid sign of a growing consensus on the importance of strategic and critical metals."

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