Competitiveness of the U.S. Mining and Mineral Processing Industry

Gao ID: 109612 June 12, 1979

Current production trends in the U.S. mining and mineral processing industry were analyzed, with particular attention given to the following four metal industries: zinc, ferroalloys, copper, and aluminum. Although the U.S. is rich in mineral resources, the domestic mineral industry has been declining. The increasing reliance on foreign processed minerals is due mainly to the fact that Government actions have made investment in domestic mineral projects less attractive. Restrictions on the use of Federal land are hindering exploration and development of domestic mineral resources. Administrative delays impede mineral exploration and development; time for approval of a prospecting permit takes about 17 months, and approval of a mineral lease requires an additional 3 years. By attempting to protect the environment, the U.S. Government has caused an increase in the costs of developing mineral projects. U.S. antitrust policies discourage domestic firms from forming joint ventures. Increases in costs due to worker health and safety standards contribute to high operating costs of projects. The cost and availability of energy are also important factors. The decline of the U.S. mining and mineral processing industry has resulted in lost jobs, has adversely affected our balance of trade, and has increased concerns about our vulnerability to mineral supply interruptions. There is an urgent need for the development of a national minerals policy.

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