March 2019 by Scott Harn
In our continuing effort to get regulatory relief and regulatory certainty for miners, Clark Pearson of Public Lands for the People and I spent another week in Washington, DC, in early February. This was our fourth trip to DC in the past 24 months, and our already our second trip in 2019. This time we were joined in our efforts by Karen Darnell of Oregon’s Galice Mining District.
We had discovered during previous trips that some of the staff members had difficulty comprehending the specific issues related to mining, so prior to heading back to DC, we laid out the reasons for our proposed legislation in a 14-page educational package we titled, “Critical Minerals: National Amendments to the NDAA—’Breaking China’s Grip on America’s Mining and Production of Critical Minerals,’” which also included the regulatory changes needed to provide that regulatory certainty.
All of the changes we are seeking serve a dual purpose by providing relief for small-scale miners while also helping to jump-start the mining and production of critical minerals in the United States and reduce America’s dependence on China for the minerals needed for technology and national defense.
We began our first day by visiting the offices of Senators who are on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee so we could set up appointments for the week. While this method worked well on all of our previous trips, we ran into some difficulty this time. Members of the Senate were debating several bills on the Senate floor, which included Senate Bill 47 (S47), a massive, 600-page monstrosity that contained funding for all kinds of land swaps, potential land withdrawals, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, museums, and other pet projects inserted as amendments and riders. (See the “Legislative Update” column in this issue for more information on S47.)
In addition, President Trump’s State of the Union address had been delayed and was rescheduled to occur during our visit.
We managed to get appointments with the staffs of many of the Senators on the ENR committee, although some wanted to meet late in the week or even the following week. A few Senate staffers either did not respond to our repeated requests or replied that they were unavailable until the following week.
On our second day, we met with Congressman Mark Amodei’s (R-NV) staff over in the House. Congressman Amodei had introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2018 that dealt with critical and strategic minerals and would have established critical minerals as part of America’s national defense strategy. Amodei’s amendment was blocked at the last minute during the NDAA process in 2018, though we believe critical minerals will be included in the NDAA this year following conversations we had with Senator Inhofe’s staff. (Inhofe took over as the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman following the death of Senator McCain.)
The meetings we had while in DC helped us further establish relationships with the staff of several key Senators. A lot of our time was spent educating them. It’s their job to preview potential legislation and make recommendations to their bosses. Several requested supplemental documents to show how the courts—the 9th Circuit, in particular—have suppressed mining rights in America by issuing decisions that contradict previously accepted property and mining rights. We provided them with over two dozen court cases and other documents to support the changes we are seeking, and we continue to add to that list as needed.
The staffers for those Senators who were unavailable during the week have been contacting us and have been apologetic, and we’ve scheduled meetings with them for a return trip in early March.
We also had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Ned Mamula, co-author of the book Groundbreaking! America’s Quest for Mineral Independence.
The book paints a very bleak picture of America’s national security vulnerabilities because of the reliance on China for critical minerals and is full of data and time-lines documenting our regulatory mistakes along with China’s well-orchestrated plan to seize control of the critical minerals supply chain. (Note: At the present time, America cannot produce a single Tomahawk missile or F-35 fighter without relying on critical minerals supplied by China.)
Dr. Mamula has written extensively on the subject. He spent decades working at the US Geological Survey, the Department of Energy and in the intelligence community. He has extensive contacts in DC and is supportive of our proposed legislation. He was able to walk into the office of a committee chairman and connect us with a chief of staff without an appointment and he disseminated our materials for us to other key legislators.
We will be making a few additions to our educational packet prior to our return trip in a few weeks. We will be highlighting the extreme environmental destruction taking place in China due to their lack of environmental safeguards and the risks to human life both in China and abroad.
Creating regulatory certainty and restoring mining and production here in America through legislation takes persistence. It’s about establishing relationships with a few key folks in DC, providing sound justification and a solid foundation, and earning their trust by answering any questions honestly and completely. We have to be willing to invest both time and effort, and a little bit of money.
Once we have our updated educational packet complete, we will be seeking a few sponsors from the technology and mining industries. In the meantime, please consider becoming a member of Public Lands for the People. We have teamed up with them to get our legislation through on the federal level.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to read our proposed legislation, you can find it on our site here.
In May 2017, the district participated in a meeting with representatives from several state and federal agencies where they educated agency officials about the authority of Mining Districts, Mining Law and miner’s rights.
One caller wondered why he should be required to join MMAC, asked why MMAC was not a non-profit, and compared it to some kind of extortion attempt. If he had questions like these, I assume there are others with similar questions and I will address them here.
This is the third trip MMAC has made to DC this year, so some of the congressional staff members are gaining a better understanding of the current problems miners face and how MMAC-assisted Mining Districts can alleviate those problems.
We now have supporters who are well known and connected in Washington, DC, and who state they will assist us in bypassing lower level staffers and getting us face-to-face meetings with Senators.
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