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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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IMA-NA Members Testify at Senate Hearing on Soda Ash Royalties

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, October 1, 2015

This afternoon two IMA-NA members, Tronox and the Port of Portland, had the opportunity to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining on the importance of reducing the soda ash royalty to 2 percent as opposed to the imminent rise to 6 percent. The hearing, convened by Subcommittee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), was held in order to gather testimony and support for S. 2031, American Soda Ash Competitiveness Act.  IMA-NA members Fred von Ahrens, Vice President of Manufacturing for Tronox, and Rick Finn, Federal Affairs Manager for the Port of Portland, offered insight into the positive impact lower federal royalties have for the soda ash industry, the Port of Portland and the U.S. economy in general. 

The lower royalty rate is vital for the U.S. industry to remain competitive in the global marketplace where their largest competitors from China are currently heavily subsidized.  The recent devaluation of the Chinese currency combined with a substantial VAT rebate, allow the Chinese companies a $27 per metric ton cost advantage over U.S. companies.  

The U.S. soda ash industry is the largest inorganic chemical export by volume in the United States and provides over one billion dollars to the balance of trade.  Roughly 58% of all soda ash produced in the U.S. is exported, while the remaining 42% is used domestically, supplying virtually 100% of domestic need. 

The soda ash industry contributes substantially to our national economy and has the additional benefit of having less environmental impact than the process China uses to make synthetic soda ash. IMA-NA's life cycle analysis of soda ash was submitted to the record as proof of U.S. producers commitment to being responsible stewards for the environment as well as for their products. 

Numerous parties submitted written support for the royalty reduction, including the Glass Packaging Institute, the Beer Institute, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, along with the Union Pacific Railroad. All are attached below. 

To view a press release on this hearing, click here.

To read more about the hearing click here

To read the American Soda Ash Competitiveness Act click here

Download File (PDF)

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Congress  hearing  IMA-NA  life cycle analysis  Port of Portland  soda ash  testimony  Tronox 

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