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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Holds Hearing on US Dependence on Foreign Minerals

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing “To Examine the United States’ Increasing Dependence on Foreign Sources of Minerals and Opportunities to Rebuild and Improve the Supply Chain in the United States”. The Hearing featured testimony from a variety of experts who were able to provide insight into both the importance of cultivating a domestic supply chain for minerals and the current impediments to investment in mining in the United States. The list of witnesses was as follows:

·       Dr. Murray Hitzman, Associate Director, Energy and Minerals, The U.S. Geological Survey (testimony)

·       Mr. Alf Barrios, Chief Executive, Rio Tinto Aluminum (testimony)

·       Dr. Chris Hinde, Director of Reports, Metals and Mining, S&P Global Market Intelligence (testimony)

·       Mr. Randy MacGillivray, Vice President, Project Development, Ucore Rare Metals, Inc. (testimony)

·       Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, USN (Retired), President and Chief Executive Officer, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) (testimony)

·       Dr. Roderick G. Eggert, Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation Chair in Mineral Economics Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines (testimony)

 

Chairwoman Murkowski (R-AK) continues to be a champion for mineral development and investment in the United States. Her opening statement as well as her questions demonstrated her knowledge of the role minerals play in the global and domestic economy and the reliance every sector has on accessible and affordable minerals. In addition to the predictably supportive Republican Senators, the Democrat Senators in attendance all also appeared to understand the importance of the mining industry and the responsible development of domestic resources. During the Q&A portion of the hearing the Senators asked questions on a variety of issues that impact IMA-NA members. Please see the synopses below on questions of particular interest.

 

·       Permitting: Multiple Senators asked for insight on how the permitting process impacts US development of mineral resources. The consistent message from the panel was that the permitting process in the United States needs takes substantially longer than Canada and Australia, two countries with comparable standards, and that the process can be improved by eliminating duplicative components, syncing up different agencies’ requirements to work on things simultaneously, setting actualized deadlines, and providing certainty in the long term requirements.

·       CERCLA: Senator Lee (R-UT) asked whether CERCLA 108(b) would have a negative impact on the mining industry. Mr. Barrios answered that the rule would disincentivize investment in new mining projects in the United States. Additionally, Barrios noted that the bonding requirements are duplicative as companies already carry bonding under other programs to cover the clean up of contaminated sites.

·       Education: The Committee had questions related to both the education of the general public, Congress, and the Administration about the industry and the state of the mining engineering pipeline at mining schools. These questions reflect conversations IMA-NA members and staff continue on the best way to increase awareness of our industry in a positive light. In addition, the focus on encouraging the next generation of mining professionals also mirrors current IMA-NA outreach and program development.

·       Minerals Science: Senator Murkowski took some time to comment on her belief in funding the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to provide the US with the most complete information possible on the resources available. She specifically focused on the need to create a complete map of the minerals of United States, as only 1/3 of the country is currently mapped.

·       Transportation: Senator Stabenow (D-MI) asked a question about the role access to reasonable transportation for mined products has in promoting domestic production of minerals. The panel all related that transportation costs made up a large part of operating budgets and certainly could negatively impact domestic production.

·       Soda Ash: Senator Barrasso (R-WY) asked a question about how minerals, such as Soda Ash, can remain competitive in a global market when US producers face both higher transportation costs and regulatory burdens, and are not subsidized in the way China subsidizes mining. Dr. Hitzman highlighted the importance of reliable transportation infrastructure, favorable tax codes, and consistent interpretation of laws and regulations.

 

The hearing gave a good indication of how the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee views the role of the mining industry in our economy and our national defense. Chairwoman Murkowski acknowledged plans to reintroduce her legislation S. 883, American Mineral Security Act of 2015, from last session as a way to further raise the importance of minerals to our national and economic well-being. Overall, the hearing provided the industry the opportunity to highlight the challenges of operating in the United States as well as the positive contributions the industry makes to society. 

To read Chairwoman Murkowski's opening statement click here.

To watch the recording of the hearing click here. 

Tags:  Barrasso  CERCLA  Congress  Energy and Natural Resources  ENR  hearing  industrial minerals industry  legislation  Legislators  minerals science  Murkowski  Senate  soda ash  usgs 

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EPA Extends Comment Period for CERCLA 108(b) NPRM

Posted By Mark Ellis, Thursday, March 2, 2017

EPA issued a 120-day extension of the written comment period for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to establish financial responsibility requirements for classes of facilities in the hardrock mining industry under Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as “Superfund”).  Comments previously were due on or before March 13, 2017.  Comments now are due on or before July 11, 2017.  This is a significant rulemaking for the mining industry, potentially costing individual affected mining facilities millions of dollars in financial assurances.  IMA-NA will file timely written comments on the proposed rule.

To view the Federal Register notice, click here.

Tags:  CERCLA  EPA  rulemaking 

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EPA Webinar on CERCLA 108(b) Financial Assurances

Posted By Mark Ellis, Monday, January 30, 2017
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017

EPA held a previously announced Webinar on its proposed rule on CERCLA (Superfund) Section 108(b) financial assurances for hardrock mining facilities.  This Webinar specifically addressed the formula EPA proposes to use to calculate the financial assurances that would be required to be posted by the covered universe of hardrock mining facilities.  That covered universe is somewhat nebulous.  While few industrial minerals operations are specifically identified in the proposed rule, the scope of the proposal could be interpreted to cover industrial minerals facilities not specifically identified.  As the cost of providing the proposed financial assurances almost certainly would total millions of dollars, it behooves industrial minerals operations to consider their potential liability if they are deemed to be part of the covered universe.  IMA-NA intends to address the issue of potential coverage of industrial minerals operations in comments due to be filed by March 13, 2017.

The EPA Webinar PowerPoint presentation can be accessed by clicking here.

The proposed formula for calculating financial assurances is attached.


Download File (XLSX)

Tags:  CERCLA  EPA  financial assurances  regulations 

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US Small Government Panel Releases Review of CERCLA Proposal

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, January 12, 2017

This week, the government released the Report of the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel (SBAR Panel) on the EPA's proposed rule: Financial Responsibility Requirements for the Hardrock Mining Industry under CERCLA § 108(b). The Panel reviewed the rule to assess the impact specifically on small mining operations and found the proposed rule to be lacking in provisions to protect small operations. The panel made recommendations for six areas in need of greater stakeholder input and adjustments to prevent small businesses from being unduly burdened by the rule. The Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy, "believes that the current approach could unnecessarily threaten the viability of small mines by use of these inflated estimates". In addition, the Office of Advocacy also questioned why the CERCLA financial assurance amounts are substantially higher than the State and FLMA's financial assurance programs. The results of the SBAR Panel echo many of IMA-NA's concerns and thoughts about the imprecision and flaws of the proposal as it currently stands.

To read the findings of the SBAR Panel please click here. 

Tags:  CERCLA  EPA  Regulations  rulemaking  SBA  SBAR Panel 

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Upcoming EPA Webinars on Hardrock Mining Financial Assurances

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, December 22, 2016

 EPA will host two Webinars in January on its proposed rule to mandate Financial Responsibility Requirements under CERCLA § 108(b) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry.  The first Webinar will be held on Tuesday, January 10, at 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. (EST) and will give an overview of the proposed rule (to register, click here).  The second Webinar will be held on Monday, January 30, at 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. (EST) and will focus on the financial responsibility formula included in the proposal (to register, click here).  Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund) gives EPA the authority to require classes of facilities to establish and maintain evidence of financial responsibility.  According to EPA, this financial responsibility demonstrates the owner or operator's ability to cover the costs associated with releases, or threatened releases, of hazardous substances from their facilities.  Facilities subject to the proposed rule would be required to demonstrate financial responsibility using one or more of the following financial responsibility instruments: letter of credit; insurance; trust fund; or surety bond.  IMA-NA opposes the proposed rule and maintains that all industrial minerals facilities should be excluded from this rulemaking.

Tags:  CERCLA  EPA  hardrock  regulations  Superfund  webinars 

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