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Watch: A conversation on energy policy and mining

Axios Events
Updated Jul 20, 2023

On Thursday, July 20, Axios Pro energy and climate policy reporter Jael Holzman hosted conversations exploring how electrification and national security concerns have supercharged support for mining on Capitol Hill. Guests included Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).

Sen. Lisa Murkowski discussed the factors impeding progress on the implementation of legislation relating to mining and emphasized the importance of critically evaluating the risks associated with acquiring foreign minerals.

  • On lags in implementing mining legislation and the Mineral Security bill: “We also included some pretty gentle permitting reforms, giving the department the authority to move forward…we asked them to speed up permitting, but we’re just not seeing that advance. So they’re saying the right things, ‘we need to do this, we need to reduce our reliance on others’. But when we’ve enacted the legislation to help allow that to proceed, we’re not seeing it happen fast enough.”
  • On scrutinizing the risks of relying on foreign mineral sources: “We need to care that we are not only providing federal taxpayer dollars that could go to help a country where you have environmental degradation, where you have human rights and worker rights challenges. We can’t close our eyes to that. We can’t close our eyes to the political unrest in these places just in an effort to gain the resource, particularly when we have access to the resource here.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell explained efforts to shore up mining in the United States and reduce reliance on China.

  • On competing with China for mining rights: “It’s a race against the clock because China is buying up mining rights all over the world. Even the mines that we have in the United States, if we were to fully explore them, we still don’t have a processing and magnetizing infrastructure capability here. So you would still have to ship to China for that part of it. And so we want, as I said, mine it, process it, magnetize it all here in the United States. That has to be the goal.”
  • On risks to the U.S. energy system and supply chains: “We need to onshore, friendshore, nearshore access to these resources. We cannot be dependent upon China at all, especially anything that touches national security, and so many of our defense components do come in the rare earth space.”
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