Friday, November 1, 2013

Arizona mining boosts local industries and national economy

By special guest contributor Hal Quinn

Last week, I met with a group of Arizona business leaders, government officials, academics and association heads including Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and author of this blog. What transpired was a robust discussion on the importance of Arizona’s minerals mining industry to the state’s economy, our nation’s global competitiveness and U.S. manufacturers’ supply chains.

Arizona’s mining sector should be a point of pride for the state, supporting more than 52,000 jobs in 2012 alone.

Left to Right: Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association;
Kelly Norton, president of the Arizona Mining Association;
Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry 

In 2012, Arizona minerals mining generated $4.8 billion in total income for workers, business owners, property owners and governments, while supplying nearly two-thirds of United States’ copper needs (65 percent of total U.S. output in 2012).

That copper is fundamental to the production of advanced energy technologies, electrical circuitry and automobiles to name a few applications. In fact, more than one ton of copper is used in a single wind turbine, 64 pounds are needed for each Toyota Prius on the road and 16 grams can be found in each of the world’s six billion cellphones.

Unfortunately, Arizona —and our nation’s — minerals mining industry is being held back from performing to its full potential due to a duplicative and outdated federal permitting process for new mine projects.

While Arizona has historically been one of the largest producers of metals and minerals in the U.S., copper production in 2012 was just 61 percent of its level in 1997. Meanwhile, copper output surges in Asia and Latin America, reducing the United States’ share of global production.

Permitting delays are keeping new mining projects in Arizona and across the country offline and much-needed investment at arm’s length. These delays have landed the United States at the bottom of the list in an annual survey reviewing the top 25 mining countries for mining investment attractiveness, according to Behre Dolbear, the leading mineral industry advisory firm.

In September, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013” — or H.R. 761 — to provide some stability and transparency to a presently inefficient process and to serve as an impetus for federal agencies involved in permitting  to better coordinate  while maintaining  our nation’s robust environmental standards.

It would be a welcomed step for Sens. McCain and Flake to take up this legislation in the Senate so that Arizona’s mineral wealth can provide even more high-wage jobs across the state, expand the U.S. economy and supply our domestic industries with the minerals and metals they desperately need.

Hal Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association (NMA), which advocates on behalf of America’s mining and minerals resources.

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