Mining Our Future Critical Minerals: Does Darkness Await Us?
We are told the transition to a zero-carbon economy will depend upon the United States’ ability to assure a sufficient supply of rare earths and minerals such as cobalt, nickel, or lithium. The Biden Administration is intent on promoting some new form of a critical mineral policy, and calls for reforming the 1872 Mining Law have persisted for well over one hundred years. This Article is designed to provoke a meaningful conversation about a critical minerals policy informed by our past. It cautions against a myopic focus on critical minerals, and suggests that moving forward demands reforming the 1872 law. That reform could incorporate streamlining efforts tethered to a modern public land planning process that mirrors the approval of renewable energy projects on public lands. Arresting climate change and ensuring an adequate supply of inputs to a new green economy necessitates sacrifices, but our treasured public land resources should not succumb to hasty decisions.