In a letter to Democratic senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, advocates call on Congress to implement recommended reforms for mining on public lands. The letter was signed by 16 groups, including prominent environmental justice, interfaith, ecological, consumer advocacy, and business advocacy groups.
In September, the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group on Mining Laws, Regulations, and Permitting published its final report Recommendations to Improve Mining on Public Lands. The report’s recommendations require legislative implementation and administrative action. Advocates are calling on policymakers to pass meaningful legislation and enact additional rules to protect the environment, Indigenous peoples, and frontline communities.
Domestic mining practices are receiving increased scrutiny as the Biden administration seeks to build out capacity for domestically sourcing and processing the minerals used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries. U.S. mining law has not been updated in more than 150 years, and the mining rules enforced by the United States Forest Service and the Department of the Interior haven’t been meaningfully updated in decades. If enacted, the new recommendations would institute a mineral leasing system, establish environmental protections, and require upfront, meaningful consultation with mining-impacted communities.
The Biden administration and Congress must act now on these recommendations so the United States’ EV transition does not come at the expense of vulnerable communities, ecosystems, and sacred sites.
Following the publication of the letter, undersigned groups released the following comments:
“We don’t need to make a false choice between rapidly transitioning to electric vehicles and responsibly sourcing the minerals needed to make them,” said Chris Espinosa, Earthjustice Climate and Energy Program Legislative Director. “Reforming our mining laws and regulations and building a circular economy will help put us on the path to a clean energy future grounded in justice. We urge Senators to take these proposals seriously so that our clean energy future doesn’t come at the expense of mining-impacted communities, ecosystems, and Indigenous sacred sites.”
“The transition to electrified transportation provides us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reduce emissions, improve public health, and develop good-paying jobs while building a battery supply chain that is ethical and sustainable,” said Ingrid Malmgren, Policy Director for Plug In America. “Implementing the Interagency Working Group’s recommendations on mining is a critical and necessary step toward creating a transportation future that protects our communities, their cultural resources, and the planet.”
“The Biden administration has made great strides towards a clean energy future. As we accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, we must meet the demand for minerals used in EV batteries in the most sustainable way possible and not at the expense of landscapes sacred to Indigenous peoples, and vulnerable communities,” said Katherine García, Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All Director. “Sierra Club supports the Interagency Working Group’s recommendations and urges the Biden administration to take swift action to bring them into effect.”
“The recommendations to improve mining on public lands represent a pivotal step forward to foster responsible mining practices and uphold environmental integrity. As we work to grow the electric vehicle sector, it is imperative that policymakers promptly enact the report recommendations to ensure a seamless transition to a sustainable, equitable, and responsible EV future in the United States,” said Trisha DelloIacono, CALSTART’s Head of Policy. “CALSTART stands with the coalition to urge swift implementation of the Recommendations to Improve Mining on Public Lands.”