Republicans Want to Use House Majority to Shorten Mining Permit Timelines

Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives are set to work on boosting domestic production of copper, lithium and other battery metals after they won a narrow victory in the U.S. midterm elections, which gave them a majority in the House and the power to influence how regulators approve or deny mining projects. Republican politicians have promised during the campaign that they would cut timeline for permit processes for new mines in half and boost domestic battery metal mining. They also want federal agencies to coordinate better when reviewing mine permit applications and to place time limits on when lawsuits against mines may be filed.

The party on Wednesday was projected to have won at least 218 seats needed to control the House when the new Congress begins on Jan. 3, a narrow victory after more than a week of vote counting.

Republican Representative Westerman, who is set to become the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee said the U.S. needs to step up mining activities to secure electrification. However, it remains to be seen if they will be able to work with the Senate, which remains in control of the Democrats.

“We’re not talking about gutting environmental laws,” Westerman said. “We’re talking about making environmental laws work so we can protect the environment and have a strong and vibrant economy at the same time.”

Westerman added that he had spoken to Democrat Senator Manchin, who heads the Senate energy committee, about the permitting reform and said he was “hopeful that it’s an area where we can work together.”

With their newfound majority, Republicans could threaten to withhold funding from agencies perceived as taking too long to approve mines. However, Biden will still oversee the permitting process.

Miners and their Republican supporters, who have long complained about the U.S. mine permitting process, say they are hopeful for some changes in the new Congress.

“We’re optimistic that the oversight function will be robust and that the Biden administration will comply with legal statutes already laid out,” industry trade group National Mining Association said.

Republicans plan to investigate Biden’s decisions to halt development of Antofagasta’s Twin Metals copper project in Minnesota and Rio Tinto’s Resolution Copper project in Arizona. The Resolution project is opposed by Democratic Representative Grijalva, who will hand his chair of the House Natural Resources Committee to Westerman.

“We want the politics to be out of the permit review process and let the facts, the science and the truth be the determinant as to whether a mine moves forward,” said republican Representative Stauber, who is poised to become chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, which oversees mining on federal land.

Biden’s regulators are also scrutinizing a Nevada lithium project from ioneer. Meanwhile, proposed mines from Lithium Americas and Polymet Mining face court challenges.

Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden in August extends EV tax credits to minerals produced domestically or in countries with U.S. free trade deals. Republicans say that expanding such deals to other countries is not a priority for the new Congress.

“My first goal would be to develop the resources we have here at home,” said Westerman.

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