Murkowski: GAO Finds Serious Gaps in Federal Mineral Policies

New Report Bolsters Case for Agency Actions, Critical Minerals Legislation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today welcomed the release of a report she requested from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the federal government’s approach to identifying, assessing, and facilitating domestic mineral supplies. The report outlines a series of significant shortfalls and limitations, which together underscore the urgency and importance of reforming our nation’s mineral policies.

“I appreciate GAO’s efforts to identify weaknesses and make recommendations that will ultimately help improve our mineral security,” Murkowski said. “While I’m pleased that GAO’s findings and recommendations track the contents of the critical minerals legislation that I introduced and included in my bipartisan energy bill, their analysis also underscores that the time to act is now—before our economy, our competitiveness, and our security are harmed.”

Our nation’s foreign mineral dependence presents a growing, yet generally ignored, danger. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the United States imported at least 50 percent of our supply of 47 separate mineral commodities in 2015, including 100 percent of 19 of them. With many of our mineral imports coming from a small set of countries, led by China, the concentration of foreign supply has also emerged as a cause for concern.

Within its new report, GAO concludes that “the federal government’s approach to addressing critical materials supply issues has not been consistent with selected key practices for interagency collaboration, such as ensuring that agencies’ roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. In addition, the federal critical materials approach faces other limitations, including data limitations and a focus on only a subset of critical materials, a limited focus on domestic production of critical materials, and limited engagement with industry.”

Murkowski is a leader on mineral security in the Senate. She has introduced legislation in the past three Congresses to establish a process for designating critical minerals, assess U.S. deposits of critical minerals, streamline the permitting process for mines that will produce those resources, and facilitate R&D into alternatives and recycling. In the current Congress, Murkowski included the text of S. 883, her American Mineral Security Act, within S. 2012, her Energy Policy Modernization Act. S. 2012 is now in conference with the House of Representatives.

Murkowski is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. GAO’s new report is entitled “Advanced Technologies: Strengthened Federal Approach Needed to Help Identify and Mitigate Supply Risks for Critical Raw Materials” and can be accessed here.