Interior Secretary’s View: ‘Made in America’ starts with Minnesota mining

Failed policies from previous administrations undercut the American manufacturing and mining industries, putting Americans out of work and China in the driver’s seat to control the products we rely on every day for electric power, communications, internet connectivity, and national security. President Donald Trump has championed policies to bring these jobs back to the United States, and his administration is continuing to take major steps forward to ensure our rightful place in the mining, processing, and manufacturing of critical minerals.

Following President Trump’s Executive Order 13817 in 2017, the Department of the Interior produced a list of 35 minerals — including rare earth elements and other metals such as lithium, indium, tellurium, gallium, and platinum-group metals — and determined that the supply chains for these critical minerals are vital to our nation’s national security and economic vitality.

The United States used to be the leader in mineral production and processing. Now, for 31 of 35 critical minerals, the United States imports over half of its annual consumption with no domestic production at all for 14 critical minerals. Everything from solar panels to smartphones to medical devices to the military equipment our soldiers need to protect our nation require these critical minerals. For many of these minerals, China largely controls the market for mining, processing, and manufacturing.

President Trump signed an executive order and declared a national emergency on Sept. 30 to expand the domestic mining industry. Critical minerals can and should be sourced from the United States by American workers, and the Trump administration is making sure this happens. The Department of the Interior and the rest of the federal government have been directed by the president to take bold action to support the mining and processing of minerals here at home.

Through his executive order, President Trump has taken decisive action to put Americans back to work and to restore economic growth. As directed by the president, I will be working with the secretary of Defense to examine how the presidential authority that we have been delegated can be used to provide grants to procure and install equipment to produce and process critical minerals here in the United States, which would accelerate the reopening and expansion of American mines and processing plants. This program could help ensure that new technologies are invented and manufactured in America and exported around the world.

Developing our critical minerals and production capacity at home is good for national security, good for jobs, and good for the environment. American workers are up to the task of efficiently and safely supplying these minerals. The United States boasts some of the strongest protections for workers and our environment in the world, which means producing and processing critical minerals domestically will result in a lower net environmental impact.

President Trump has made it clear that we will not put American workers on the sidelines by continuing to rely on other countries, particularly after the supply-chain disruptions from foreign markets we saw at the onset of the pandemic.

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NTEC Receives Highest Honor for Exemplary Mining and Reclamation from US Department of Interior

NTEC chose to rework marginal, legacy reclamation sites to create a stable landscape, ultimately allowing the land to be returned better than they found it

FARMINGTON, N.M., Sept. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the US Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) recognized Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) for their exemplary mining and reclamation work at the Navajo Mine. OSMRE awarded NTEC the agencies highest honor for activities that went above and beyond reclamation requirements to achieve superior results.

NTEC is the steward of the nearly 33,000 acre Navajo Coal Mine on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Traditional piecemeal reclamation began at the mine in 1970. When NTEC, a Navajo-owned company, purchased the mine in 2013 they inherited failing reclamation and unstable landforms, much of which had already been relinquished from jurisdictional oversight. The company immediately saw an opportunity to go above and beyond to correct the situation and do more than required to create a stable, sustainable landscape that mimics the natural erosion and deposition process of the Southwest.

Specifically, one site had been reclaimed to the previous applicable standard and was unnaturally eroding, while another site was lacking soil to shape and fill the area. However, the existing site configuration didn’t allow equipment the access necessary to perform reclamation work. NTEC and Bisti Fuels (NTEC’s contract miner) applied a creative solution to remedy both situations and allow for a watershed reclamation method.

The limiting infrastructure included electric rail structures (necessary to move coal from the pit to the power plant) and a local access road. The Company removed electric rail overhead lines and purchased diesel locomotives, as well as relocated a portion of the road. The new road location served the dual purpose of providing locals safe passage during the weather events. The new configuration allowed NTEC to correct the erosion problems with one pit, minimize impacts to previous reclamation, and move soils for future reclamation. Combined, these extraordinary efforts allowed for a large-scale effort that mimics a natural watershed and creates a sustainable restoration landscape.

This effort and approach is above and beyond what is required. “We took a site that has already been released from jurisdiction by the agency, and put it back in, because we knew we could do it better—we wanted to leave things better than we found them,” said Clark Moseley, CEO. “Doing the right thing is one of NTEC’s core behaviors. We have an obligation to our shareholders, the Navajo People. Our reclamation efforts present an opportunity to step up, do the right thing, at the right time, and create a better landform than what is required.”

OSMRE Principal Deputy Director Lanny E. Erdos, along with NTEC and Navajo Nation leadership toured the reclamation site this morning. The tour was followed be an award ceremony. “It is with great pleasure that I am here today to present the Navajo Transitional Energy Company with the 2020 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Award,” said OSM

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Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog says officials misled Congress | Trump admin finalizes rule on royalty cuts for mining

HAPPY TUESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

a group of people on a sidewalk: Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog says officials misled Congress | Trump admin finalizes rule on royalty cuts for mining | Groups pressure Biden to exclude fossil fuel execs

© Rebecca Beitsch
Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog says officials misled Congress | Trump admin finalizes rule on royalty cuts for mining | Groups pressure Biden to exclude fossil fuel execs

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THE LEAD STORY: Top Interior Department officials misled Congress when they claimed high office rent in Washington, D.C., was a factor in the need to move the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to a new headquarters in Colorado, the agency’s internal watchdog found.

A report on Tuesday from Interior’s Office of Inspector General found that two officials overplayed the cost of BLM’s M Street SE lease near Nationals Park as a motivating factor in the move, as the agency already had plans underway to return to office space owned by the government.

Joseph Balash, a former assistant secretary for land and minerals management who now works in the oil industry, and BLM acting Director William Perry Pendley, whose tenure with the agency is the subject of a lawsuit, are implicated in the report.

Both men wrote in correspondence with Congress that BLM would be unable to stay in its existing M Street SE office because the cost would exceed the $50 per square foot limit set by the government.

The report found the claims were “misleading” and said that “the future lease cost of 20 M Street was irrelevant.”

Interior announced in July 2019 that it would move more than 200 of BLM’s D.C.-based employees to existing offices across the West, while putting nearly 25 of its top-ranking leaders at a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo. The move would leave just 61 of BLM’s 10,000 employees in Washington.

The move was considered a victory for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is facing a tight reelection campaign, but it raised the eyebrows of former BLM employees, who questioned why the agency would leave such a small footprint in D.C. and set up shop in a town four hours from any major airport.

But well before Grand Junction was on the drawing board, BLM was already planning to leave its M Street SE space.

“When we got that lease it was a bargain,” said Steve Ellis, who retired from the highest-ranking career position within BLM in 2016.

“Since we moved people in there, Nationals Park popped up across the street, the area’s become much more popular and built up. That’s a good thing, but it meant the lease would be cost prohibitive when it ended, so we we’re looking around at options.”

Rather than pay more than $50 per square foot, the inspector general found evidence from both 2016 and 2017 that the department “had longstanding plans” to move BLM employees either to the Main Interior Building (MIB) or another federal

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