- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The United States should stop panicking and start mining rare earth metals that now come principally from China, experts say, prompting several lawmakers to introduce bills to “survey” U.S. stocks and encourage domestic production. (“U.S. urged to mine rare earth minerals,” Page 1, Tuesday).

At this point, unfortunately, there’s not much to survey, much less produce, aside from one known deposit (Molycorp’s in California) and vast expanses where the minerals might be found, if anyone were permitted to look.

However, well over 500 million acres of America’s best rare earth and other mineral prospects are locked up, off-limits to mineral exploration and development. That’s more land than in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined - under a host of wilderness, park, preserve, wildlife refuge, wilderness study and other restrictive land-use categories.

Regardless of how much we need rare earths for permanent magnets, high-tech automobiles, smartphones, smart bombs, computers and other uses, the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency, environmentalists and most Democrats adamantly oppose prospecting or mining on any of these lands. They won’t even ease their opposition to produce the specialized metals needed to manufacture their holy grails: wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid and electric cars.

Nor will unions break with these anti-development radicals to “create or save” millions of U.S. jobs. Even Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, hasn’t raised a finger to support opening these lands for the sake of her state’s embattled and taxpayer-subsidized automobile industry.

Meanwhile, China and Mongolia have become international sacrifice areas - with the environment and workers’ health imperiled to produce rare earths for a hungry world under standards that weren’t tolerated in the United States 50 years ago. A quick Internet search for images from Baotou, Mongolia, will leave armchair researchers shocked by what they see.

So three cheers for members of Congress who have introduced legislation to encourage domestic production. Even a small dose of sanity in our energy and environmental laws is long overdue.


Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow

Fairfax, Va.

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