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Mined minerals at the forefront of the supply chain

Mined minerals at the forefront of the supply chain

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The global pandemic combined with the desire to push toward cleaner energy sources and the electric vehicle revolution have finally cast a bright light on an issue that most in our industry have been discussing for years, if not decades.

It didn’t matter how loud miners banged the drum — it wasn’t until you couldn’t buy a four-pack of toilet paper that people began to realize that even a small disruption in our supply chain can cause significant impacts to the availability of consumer goods, and on a broader scale, to our economy.

We have seen firsthand the impacts that a disruption in raw material supply can have on the market, from semiconductor production all the way down the supply chain to computers or phones at the retail level or pickup trucks on the dealer’s lot. It is absolutely imperative that we have access to the minerals needed to fuel our economy and support our manufacturing and infrastructure needs throughout this country. Critical and otherwise, the United States must secure a domestic supply of minerals to meet demands going forward.

Mined materials are the front end of virtually every supply chain and are used in virtually every sector of our economy. That’s true whether it is infrastructure like roads, bridges and broadband or medical supplies such as pacemakers, ventilators, CAT scanners and even the hospitals themselves or consumer goods like computers, televisions and computers, or the phosphate fertilizers used to grow our food and feed the world’s population. These minerals have been the backbone of our society’s daily needs, and they will be the base of electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies into the future.

Here in Idaho we have one of the most diverse sets of mineral deposits and assets in the nation. Silver, gold, copper, phosphorous, molybdenum and critical minerals such as cobalt, antimony and rare earths are scattered in abundance throughout our state. Without these minerals, batteries, wind turbines, solar panels and grid infrastructure could not be built. The daily demand for these and other minerals continues to rise. As the world population grows and we transition to more renewable energy sources, this demand will only go up. The massive increases we will have to see in mineral production to fill all the technological needs of making our nation 100% reliant on solar, wind and battery power are astronomical. This doesn’t even include the continued increase in demand for smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, electric cars and fertilizers, among other things.

Throughout the last year, we have heard policymakers’ continued calls for renewable and green energy and rebuilding infrastructure, while in the next breath calling for mining bans across the country. These promises and policies are well-meaning, but they fail to connect the dots on how our nation can achieve these clean energy, infrastructure and manufacturing goals without mining. In fact, these goals will require an increase in production and supply of critical and noncritical minerals exponentially.

All said, it seems as if there are now folks on both sides of the aisle starting to recognize the threat that a disrupted supply chain can mean to our economy. It is encouraging to see bipartisan support for permitting reform and acknowledgment that securing critical minerals should be a priority. A current example of this can be seen in the infrastructure package recently passed out of the Senate. The time seems right for our industry to remind citizens and policymakers alike of the role that mining plays on their daily lives.

As policymakers continue to work toward investing in infrastructure and alternative energy sources, we must continue to help them connect the dots. Mining has always been an essential contributor to our nation’s commerce. The time is right to remind people that while providing the materials at the front of most supply chains, we are also creating high-paying, safe jobs in a place with some of the most stringent environmental and labor standards in the world. Mined materials are the foundation on which virtually everything is manufactured. 

Benjamin Davenport is the executive vice president of the Idaho Mining Association.

Benjamin Davenport is the executive vice president of the Idaho Mining Association.

"Here in Idaho we have one of the most diverse sets of mineral deposits and assets in the nation. Silver, gold, copper, phosphorous, molybdenum and critical minerals such as cobalt, antimony, and rare earths are scattered in abundance throughout our state. Without these minerals, batteries, wind turbines, solar panels and grid infrastructure could not be built."

--Benjamin Davenport, Idaho Mining Association executive vice president

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