by Greg Walcher, Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in The Daily Sentinel
An internationally respected geologist named John Clema recently published an article headlined with the simple truth that “Past, present and future progress requires mining.” That statement should not be controversial, since most people must surely be aware of the presence in their lives of metal and energy. Yet in their zeal to stop an industry some view as environmentally destructive, some people have actually convinced themselves they can thrive without minerals.
Is anyone really that myopic? Probably not, but on some level such activists must at least feel better by pretending to oppose the very system that creates their prosperity. They must be “pretending,” because they all drive cars, live in buildings, and wear clothing. But with trade wars escalating, and America’s dependence on unfriendly foreign governments growing, it is “foolish and contrary to sound public policy” to continue locking up domestic supplies of vital minerals, as Clema argues.
He explains that America’s regulatory system has increasingly designated vast swaths of public lands as “off limits to mining — even before any effort was made to evaluate mineral prospects.” In other words, just the possibility that an area might contain valuable mineral deposits has worried our collective environmental conscience into blocking exploration. But Americans do not change their lifestyles. They do not forgo transportation, or home heating, or give up their cellphones and TVs. They simply ban mining or drilling, and then hope somehow to get what they need some other way. And they do — from other countries, with notable consequences. “Shunning our mineral wealth forces America to import minerals from countries that pay far less attention to environmental safeguards and worker safety standards than we do,” Clema writes.