LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada’s U.S. senators are siding with the mining industry in opposing Biden administration proposals that would create royalties on minerals including gold, silver and copper taken from federal land.
Recommendations in a report from the Interior Department would make sweeping changes to an 1872 mining law as efforts to expand lithium mining gain national importance.
But a joint statement from Democratic U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen opposes the recommendations, which would create a 4% to 8% tax and change the regulatory landscape just as big lithium discoveries could bring more mines — and jobs — to the Silver State.
Nevada was recently rated the No. 1 most attractive place for mining and exploration in the world, according to a Fraser Institute survey. The state had been bumped off the top of the list last year as Western Australia ascended to the top.
The Interagency Working Group on Mining Laws, Regulations and Permitting (IWG) released its report on Sept. 12 and was met with resistance the same day by Cortez Masto and Rosen.
Dana Bennett, interim president of the Nevada Mining Association, issued this statement on Monday:
“The IWG report contains recommendations that, if enacted, would seriously derail Nevada’s modern mining industry. The report reflects a lack of understanding of this industry and the strict regulatory system that already governs it, especially here in Nevada. To reach its clean energy goals, the country needs to move more quickly to permit mining operations. The unrealistic recommendations in the IWG report would do just the opposite. Nevada is already a global leader in the responsible production of the metals and minerals required for the 21st century, and the Nevada Mining Association stands ready to share our expertise in the continued development of a responsible, sustainable mining industry.”
A recent report produced by the state shows that 4.6 million ounces of gold, 6.1 million ounces of silver and 154.2 million pounds of copper were mined in Nevada in 2020. The only lithium mine operating in the U.S., the Silver Peak mine west of Tonopah, produced 6.9 million pounds of lithium compounds. Silver Peak produces about 1% of the world’s lithium, with most of the supply from Chile, Argentina and Australia.
Now, several lithium discoveries — most notably the McDermitt Caldera, which has been described as possibly the largest deposit in the world — are fueling excitement for big projects in Nevada. The development of electronic vehicles (EVs) is creating a situation that leaves the U.S. dependent on foreign sources.
Environmental and tribal opposition to some of the projects has landed mining companies in court over several ventures, including the Thacker Pass site in northwest Nevada. Courts have allowed Thacker pass development to continue.
“Nevada’s critical minerals are the key to clean energy jobs and lower costs for tens of millions of Americans across the country, and we should be working together to build our domestic supply chain because it’s good for our economy and our environment,” Cortez Masto said.
“Unfortunately, these recommendations to impose new taxes and change the mining claims process would make it harder to create new mining projects in the United States at a time when too many companies are sourcing these minerals from Communist China. We need lithium and other critical minerals to drive our clean energy industry, and I will continue to make sure any changes to mining policy work for the tens of thousands of Nevadans powering this industry,” she said.
Rosen vowed to fight for regulations that support Nevada’s mining industry and the good-paying jobs it creates.
“While this report offers needed recommendations to reform federal mining regulations, some of the proposals will hurt the mining industry and fail to bolster our nation’s domestic mineral supply chain,” she said. “We must focus on strengthening our domestic energy supply chains and moving away from our reliance on foreign adversaries for critical minerals.”