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H.R. 4402 (112th): National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012

The text of the bill below is as of Apr 19, 2012 (Introduced).



2d Session

H. R. 4402


April 19, 2012

introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


To require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of the minerals and mineral materials of strategic and critical importance to United States economic and national security and manufacturing competitiveness.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012.



Congress finds the following:


The industrialization of China and India has driven demand for nonfuel mineral commodities, sparking a period of resource nationalism exemplified by China’s reduction in exports of rare-earth elements necessary for telecommunications, military technologies, healthcare technologies, and conventional and renewable energy technologies.


The availability of minerals and mineral materials are essential for economic growth, national security, technological innovation, and the manufacturing and agricultural supply chain.


The exploration, production, processing, use, and recycling of minerals contribute significantly to the economic well-being, security and general welfare of the Nation.


The United States has vast mineral resources, but is becoming increasingly dependent upon foreign sources of these mineral materials, as demonstrated by the following:


Twenty-five years ago the United States was dependent on foreign sources for 30 nonfuel mineral materials, 6 of which the United States imported 100 percent of the Nation’s requirements, and for another 16 commodities the United States imported more than 60 percent of the Nation’s needs.


By 2011 the United States import dependence for nonfuel mineral materials had more than doubled from 30 to 67 commodities, 19 of which the United States imported 100 percent of the Nation’s requirements, and for another 24 commodities, imported more than 50 percent of the Nation’s needs.


The United States share of world wide mineral exploration dollars was 8 percent in 2011, down from 19 percent in the early 1990s.


In the 2012 Ranking of Countries for Mining Investment, out of 25 major mining countries, the United States ranked last with Papua New Guinea in permitting delays, and towards the bottom regarding government take and social issues affecting mining.



In this Act:


Strategic and critical minerals

The term strategic and critical minerals means minerals that are necessary—


for national defense and national security requirements;


for the Nation’s energy infrastructure, including pipelines, refining capacity, electrical power generation and transmission, and renewable energy production;


to support domestic manufacturing, agriculture, housing, telecommunications, healthcare, and transportation infrastructure; and


for the Nation’s economic security and balance of trade.



The term agency means any agency, department, or other unit of Federal, State, local, or tribal government, or Alaska Native Corporation.


mineral exploration or mine permit

The term mineral exploration or mine permit includes plans of operation issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service pursuant to 43 CFR 3809 and 36 CFR 228A respectively.


Development of Domestic Sources of Strategic and Critical Minerals


Improving development of strategic and critical minerals

Domestic mines that will provide strategic and critical minerals shall be considered an infrastructure project as described in Presidential Order Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects dated March 22, 2012.


Responsibilities of the lead agency


In general

The lead agency with responsibility for issuing a mineral exploration or mine permit shall appoint a project lead who shall coordinate and consult with other agencies, cooperating agencies, project proponents and contractors to ensure that agencies minimize delays, set and adhere to timelines and schedules for completion of reviews, set clear permitting goals and track progress against those goals.


The lead agency with responsibility for issuing a mineral exploration or mine permit may determine any such action would not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 because the procedural and substantive safeguards of the lead agency’s permitting process alone, any applicable State permitting process alone, or a combination of the two processes together provide an adequate mechanism to ensure that environmental factors are taken into account.


The lead agency with responsibility for issuing a mineral exploration or mine permit shall enhance government coordination on permitting and review by avoiding duplicative reviews, minimizing paperwork and engaging other agencies and stakeholders early in the process. The lead agency shall consider the following best practices:


Deferring to and relying upon baseline data, analysis and reviews preformed by State agencies with jurisdiction over the proposed project.


Conducting reviews concurrently rather than sequentially to the extent practicable and when such concurrent review will expedite rather than delay a decision.


At the request of a project proponent, the project lead of the agency with responsibility for issuing a mineral exploration or mine permit shall enter into an agreement with the project proponent and other cooperating agencies that sets time limits for each part of the permit review process including:


The decision on whether to prepare an environmental impact statement.


A determination of the scope of any environmental impact statement.


Preparation of any draft environmental impact statement.


Preparation of a final environmental impact statement.


Consultations required under applicable laws.


Submission and review of any comments required under applicable law.


Publication of any public notices required under applicable law.


A final or any interim decisions.


In no case should the total review process described in section 2(d) exceed 30 months unless agreed to by the signatories of the agreement.


The lead agency is not required to address agency or public comments that were not submitted during the public comment periods provided by the lead agency or otherwise required by law.


The lead agency will determine the amount of financial assurance for reclamation of a mining site, which must cover the estimated cost if the lead agency were to contract with a third party to reclaim the operations according to the reclamation plan, including construction and maintenance costs for any treatment facilities necessary to meet Federal, State or tribal environmental standards.


Conservation of the resource

In developing the mineral exploration or mine permit, the priority of the lead agency shall be to maximize the development of the mineral resource, while mitigating environmental impacts, so that more of the mineral resource can be brought to the market place.


Federal register process for mineral exploration and mining projects


Preparation of Federal Notices for Mineral Exploration and Mine Development Projects

The preparation of Federal Register notices required by law associated with the issuance of a mineral exploration or mine permit shall be delegated to the organization level within the agency responsible for issuing the mineral exploration or mine permit. All Federal Register notices regarding official document availability, announcements of meetings, or notices of intent to undertake an action shall be originated and transmitted to the Federal Register from the office where documents are held, meetings are held, or the activity is initiated.


Departmental Review of Federal Register Notices for Mineral Exploration and Mining Projects

Absent any extraordinary circumstance or except as otherwise required by any Act of Congress, each Federal Register notice described in subsection (a) shall undergo any required reviews within the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture and be published in its final form in the Federal Register no later than 30 days after its initial preparation.


Judicial review of agency actions relating to Exploration and Mine Permits


Definitions for title

In this title the term covered civil action means a civil action containing a claim under section 702 of title 5, United States Code, regarding agency action affecting a mineral exploration or mine permit.


Timely filings

A covered civil action is barred unless filed no later than the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the final Federal agency action to which it relates.


Expedition in hearing and determining the action

The court shall endeavor to hear and determine any covered civil action as expeditiously as possible.


Limitation on prospective relief

In a covered civil action, the court shall not grant or approve any prospective relief unless the court finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of a legal requirement, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct that violation.


Limitation on attorneys’ fees

Sections 504 of title 5, United States Code, and 2412 of title 28, United States Code (together commonly called the Equal Access to Justice Act) do not apply to a covered civil action, nor shall any party in such a covered civil action receive payment from the Federal Government for their attorneys’ fees, expenses, and other court costs.