Feds reject push to make copper a critical mineral

May 24, 2023

The United States Geological Survey has rejected a bid by members of Congress and the copper industry to add copper to the United States’ Critical Minerals List. A bipartisan group of senators, including Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, sent a letter to the USGS in February asking it to add copper to the list, citing a study conducted by the Copper Development Association, a mining industry group.

The Critical Minerals List is a federal list of non-fuel minerals deemed critical to national or economic security but vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. Were copper to be added to the list, it could help expedite domestic mining projects, such as the Resolution Copper Mine proposed at Oak Flat.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, which considers Oak Flat to be a sacred site, Earthworks, Patagonia, and the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition sent a letter to the USGS in April asking it not to list copper as a critical mineral, alleging errors in the Copper Development Association’s study and political motivations on behalf of the senators.

In an April 13 letter to Sinema, USGS Director David Applegate laid out similar reasons for rejecting her bid to add copper to the list. He cited federal data showing that the country’s reliance on imported copper actually decreased in 2022, while about a third of domestic copper consumption requirements were met through recycling. He also explained that the U.S. does not rely on China, Russia, or Ukraine for copper but rather Chile, Canada, and Mexico.

Public lands rule hearings

The Bureau of Land Management will host a meeting on Thursday in Golden, Colorado for members of the public to learn more about its proposed “Public Lands Rule,” which would put conservation on equal footing with grazing and drilling. It will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Denver West Marriott in Golden. Other meetings will be held Tuesday, May 30, in Albuquerque, Thursday, June 1, in Reno, and Monday, June 5, online.

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Quote of the day

”Will Tiehm’s buckwheat stop Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge Mine? Not likely, and that’s not the point. What’s more likely is that the mine will overhaul its operations plan to ensure it doesn’t drive the rare wildflower extinct by destroying its critical habitat.”

Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity

Picture this

aerial photo of Colorado River snaking through Grand Canyon

“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.” ― David Brower

📷 courtesy of Tyson Joye

(featured image: The Mission Complex open-pit copper mine in Pima Arizona; Joyce Cory, Wikimedia Commons)