01.20.2014 1

The death of mining

mineBy Rick Manning

What would you do if you invested $500 million in exploration, discovery, site preparation, engineering, environmental studies and planning, only to be told that you could not proceed by a federal government agency that has never even seen your development plan?

What would you do if the land was formerly owned by the federal government, but subsequently traded to the state of Alaska in exchange for other more environmentally valuable land that was turned into a national park?  And get this, the remote area containing the land was zoned by the state for mining, yet the federal government still decided that they controlled their former property anyway.

Would you invest in any potential future mines in that country if the federal government could throw your $500 million out the window without even following their own process for approving a new mining venture?

Not if you had a brain in your head.

It takes at least a decade to develop a new mine in the United States and investors have to be assured that the rule of law will be followed in order to put their capital at risk.

Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has effectively wiped away the mine permitting process by issuing a politically motivated negative assessment of the Pebble Mine in Alaska, it is hard to imagine anyone seriously bothering to even start the process of developing mineral resources in America.  It is far more practical and effective invest elsewhere in the world where they run a much lower risk of having their efforts destroyed, and investment wiped out by political whimsy.

Opponents of the mine argue that the risks associated with the Pebble Mine were too great as it was on the watershed for the Bristol Bay.  But the EPA acted without even waiting for a mining plan to be presented, because they couldn’t risk that the actual facts about the project might mitigate against the fear being spread by those trying to stop it.

By acting outside of the law, the Obama Administration accomplished its purpose.  It sent a strong message to anyone interested in mining in the United States not to bother even trying.  After all, if a proposed mining project in one of the most remote locations on earth cannot even get a fair hearing within the constructs of American law, then what hope would any other proposed mining projects have?

In the upcoming weeks we are likely to hear a great deal from Obama and the Democrats about the need for good jobs in our country.  Working in the mining industry used to be considered one of these “good jobs” but no more.  Thanks to Obama’s economic wrecking crew, those good jobs will not be created in the future.

However, this is worse than just having tax policies that discourage investment, by unilaterally denying the Pebble Mine without allowing them to present their mining plan, the Obama Administration has fundamentally changed America from a place where investors could depend upon the rule of law, to a third world political environment where clout supercedes all else.  Just another step in America’s descent into mediocrity.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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