NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Rare Earth and Uranium Mining Potential in the States

January 8, 2013

Rare earth and uranium are crucial to modern life in the United States. Rare earths are necessary for a wide array of products from iPhones to advanced medical support to defense equipment. Uranium fuels 20 percent of our electricity. Fortunately, the United States has the capacity to expand domestic production of both rare earths and uranium, which could reinvigorate our economy, add jobs and increase revenues to suffering state budgets. A new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council details rare earth and uranium mining reserves and production, reviews permitting and regulatory hurdles, estimates the economic benefit of developing reserves, and highlights the safety and environmental track record of mining.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The United States currently imports more than 96 percent of its rare earths and 92 percent of its uranium.
  • Rare earths or uranium mining operations in several states could expand significantly if mining regulations were rationalized. Obtaining the permits and approvals needed to develop a mine in the United States takes an average of seven years, which is among the longest wait times in the world. Countries like Canada and Australia, with comparable environmental laws, take about two years.
  • More than 250,000 people work directly in metals and non-metals mining throughout the United States, and an additional 650,000 jobs are created elsewhere in the economy to support the mining industry. If permitting processes were rationalized and rare earth and uranium resources were fully developed in the states, thousands of direct mining jobs could be created.
  • One of the most tightly regulated industries in the United States today is uranium mining. If Virginia decides to lift its current uranium mining moratorium, a total of eight different state and federal agencies are in place to oversee uranium mining and milling operations. This oversight and technology improvements have led to an impressive and continually improving safety and environmental record for U.S. mines.
  • States with rare earths and uranium resources could benefit by more than $40 billion in increased economic development, add nearly 9,000 good paying jobs, and improve their state revenue by almost $2 billion, with no change to tax rates or imposition of new taxes.

Source: Tom Tanton, "Dig it! Rare Earth and Uranium Mining Potential in the States," American Legislative Exchange Council, December 2012.


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