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Miners praise U.S. spending bill that funds rare earth programs

-Editorial

The pandemic aid and spending package signed by U.S. President Donald Trump last Sunday includes more than $800 million to fund rare earth and strategic minerals research, spending that mining companies say will help counteract China’s dominance over the sector.

The $2.3 trillion, 5,593-page bill essentially codifies Trump’s executive orders on rare earth, a group of 17 minerals used to make magnets for electric vehicles, other green technologies, and weapons. The bill requires better geological studies of federal lands, funds studies into the processing and recycling of rare earth, and supports improvements to mining education programs.

The bill requires better geological studies of federal lands, funds studies into the processing and recycling of rare earth, and supports improvements to mining education programs.

The National Mining Association, the industry trade group, as well as Energy Fuels In and other rare earth companies, praised the bill’s minerals clauses.

As the global economy eyes, a recovery and markets welcome promising vaccine news and a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, global investors are rushing to metals and the companies that mine them. Whether copper, iron, or aluminum, these metal building blocks for manufacturing and infrastructure have become market favorites. Copper prices are approaching eight-year highs, iron ore prices are up nearly 50% this year and aluminum is up 40% since May.

Near-term trends are certainly driving this interest. But longer-term trends, including a recalibration of the importance of metal mining to technology (particularly advanced energy technologies), is the undercurrent for the long-term investor.

“The speed at which mineral demand is growing due to advanced energy technology is outpacing U.S. mining’s ability to respond in the current policy environment. The time required to get a new metal mine up and running — and supply product to market — often takes a decade or more. In the U.S., just permitting a new mine now takes an average of seven to 10 years, and often more,” the association said.

 

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