Mining Our Future Critical Minerals: Does Darkness Await Us?

December 2021
ELR 11006
Sam Kalen

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.

Sam Kalen is the William T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean of the University of Wyoming College of Law, and is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Colorado Law School.

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Mining Our Future Critical Minerals: Does Darkness Await Us?

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