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Land Use & Permitting

EMA supports policy that bolsters U.S. production of essential minerals.

Enabling Domestic Mineral Production

It can take up to 10 to 15 years to obtain a mine permit in the United States, which is far more time than other developed nations. Permitting is the single biggest cost to the process, and EMA supports permitting reform that enables a streamlined process to meet mineral demand.

Additionally, many of the mineral deposits in the United States are found on land controlled by the federal government. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages these lands for sustained yield of multiple uses, as required by the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLMPA). These multiple uses encompass a variety of land uses, including mining. EMA advocates for policies that allow for responsible access to essential mineral resources on federal lands as set forth in FLMPA.


National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions, which includes mine permit applications. The start-up costs for mine exploration; feasibility studies; and development – which includes financing, permitting, and construction are cost prohibitive for many mineral companies.  A typical U.S. mining project loses more than one-third of its value because of bureaucratic delays in permitting process, according to a 2015 study by SNL Metals and Mining. Undertaking a NEPA assessment can take several years in many cases. EMA supports policy to streamline this process and balance environmental impact with much needed domestic mineral production.

In 2023, the Fiscal Responsibility Act was passed and signed into law. The act provides for changes to NEPA, including updated timelines for Environmental Assessments (one year) and Environmental Impact Statements (two years). In addition, project applicants now can provide their own draft Environmental Impact Statements for agencies to review, which saves valuable time in the process. Finally, the bill includes provisions to reform the definition of “reasonably foreseeable” impacts under NEPA.

However, there is still more work to be done, and EMA urges members of Congress and the White House to build on the momentum of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by continuing to pursue bipartisan solutions that will improve our nation’s permitting system.

BLM Conservation and Landscape Health Rule

In 2023, BLM introduced the proposed Conservation and Landscape Health rule, which would alter BLM’s management of the 245 million acres of lands under its jurisdiction. The final rule was released in April 2024. This rule represents a clear and imminent threat to the minerals industry and its contributions to the economy.

The rule would elevate conservation as an equal “multiple use” of federal lands on par with those set forth in FLPMA, despite the fact the statute does not authorize BLM to do so or include conservation as such an equal use. In addition, under the rule, BLM would be able to set aside vast tracts of federal land for “conservation leases,” which EMA members and other project applicants would have to purchase before obtaining permits. The rule also instructs BLM offices to refrain from authorizing activities that it believes could affect “landscape resilience,” including mining, which the rule specifically lists as such an activity despite its long history of coexistence with other land uses on BLM lands for decades. BLM will now also be able to expand the criteria for Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, further increasing the areas where mining and other activities would be prohibited. Finally, BLM offices are now required to consider land health assessments, evaluations, and determinations across all programs and decision-making processes, which are currently only required for grazing permits.

This rule is a dramatic change in BLM’s land use planning that will be highly detrimental not only to EMA members, but to the Bureau itself and the lands it is responsible for. EMA provided comments to BLM on the draft version of this rule. We remain opposed to this rule and will continue working with other associations as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill to replace it with a more balanced, legally sound, and practicable approach to public lands management.



The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41) created the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council to improve the transparency and predictability of the Federal environmental review and authorization process for certain critical infrastructure projects, including mine permitting projects. In 2023, the Council proposed to revise the FAST-41 mining sector regulations to focus only on minerals listed on the Department of Interior’s Critical Minerals list.

There are dozens of minerals that are essential to our everyday lives and economies but are not included in the USGS definition of Critical Minerals. Without adequate supplies of minerals – including those not on the USGS’ Critical Minerals list -the United States will not have a domestic supply of minerals needed for the green energy transition along with increasing our reliance on foreign adversaries for needed minerals. It does not make sense to deny these important resources the opportunity for the streamlined FAST-41 permitting process.

EMA supports legislation introduced by Western Caucus Vice Chair Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and Rep. Blake Moore (UT-01) to rescind the Biden Administration’s proposed changes to the FAST-41 process for mining projects and urges Congress to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

Mining Performance Metrics

In February 2024, BLM introduced its Draft Mining Performance Measurements intended to measure the Bureau’s success in the timely consideration of permits for Mine Plans of Operations. However, BLM failed to publicly release the metrics, which is not conducive to effective and transparent stakeholder engagement on issues relating to mining on public lands.

Many EMA members operate on federal lands overseen by BLM to produce essential mineral resources. Efficient, streamlined, and timely permitting processes for mine plans are vital to our members’ operations, but the actual process of obtaining necessary permits is often the exact opposite. However, there are significant concerns regarding the transparency of these metrics as well as the vague definitions and measurements in the performance metrics that would have consequences on all relevant stakeholders. EMA filed comments with the BLM outlining our concerns with both the substance of the performance metrics as well as the non-transparent process by which BLM released them for public comment.


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