January 26, 2024 BOISE, IDAHO - Today, the Idaho Mining Association and A Common Sense America convened a strategic roundtable to discuss national security concerns surrounding America’s critical mineral supply and efforts by foreign interests and environmental activists to block domestic development and increase dependence on foreign supply. Moderated by Ben Davenport, Executive Vice President of the Idaho Mining Association, the event brought together key policymakers, industry leaders, and subject matter experts. The panel included: Steve Crim, Executive Director at A Common Sense America; Senator Mark Harris (R-Soda Springs), Senate Majority Caucus Chair; William Myers III, Partner at Holland & Hart; Randy Vranes, Business Unit Manager at Bayer Crop Science; and Claudio Berti, Director at Idaho Geological Survey.
Idaho’s Congressional delegations’ natural resources policy advisors shared policy objectives and initiatives related to mining and land use policy. Darren Parker, of Senator Risch’s office, shared that the Senator is laser-focused on addressing the challenges presented by the Rosemont decision, which changes the interpretation of mining claims and could create limitations to mining operations across the country. Craig Quarterman, of Congressman Simpson’s office, shared that Simpson is working to amend the critical minerals list to include potash and phosphate, key minerals for food production.
Casey Attebery, Senator Crapo’s State Director of Natural Resources and Environment, noted that Senator Crapo has led on the issue of natural asset corporations, in conjunction with Governor LIttle and the entire Idaho delegation. Dirk Mendive, of Congressman Fulcher’s office noted that Fulcher is working closely with his colleagues
and is committed to ensuring that the United States responds proactively to the threat posed by China and other adversaries in defending our mining interests.
A central topic of the roundtable was the Caldwell Canyon mine legal dispute, where environmental groups successfully halted the development of a phosphate mine, a project already approved by the Bureau of Land Management. The case, as discussed by Randy Vranes and William Myers, underscored the complex interplay of legal, environmental, and economic factors in mining operations.To date, the mining operator has invested more than 200 million dollars in permitting, developing, and constructing the project, money lost should the appeals process prove unsuccessful.
Senator Harris reflected on the impact lost mining jobs have at the local level. He remarked that these decisions “come down to people and communities” and that “these mines make our communities.” Mining employees work, live, and recreate in their local communities. He closed by noting that “conservation groups give lip service” to environmental issues by saying that “mining companies are the real environmentalists.”
Davenport asked panelists to share solutions to the issue of foreign influence and environmental activists' success in derailing mining companies. “Idaho’s phosphate production is key to America’s food security and when organizations, like Center for Biological Diversity, can use our court system to shut down Bayer AG’s Caldwell Canyon Phosphate mine Steve Crim shared examples of actions taken in states around the country, including a proposed bill that would mandate that NGO’s disclose any funding received from foreign countries like China and Russia, as well as legislation to limit foreign governments' ability to purchase land. In 2023, the Idaho Legislature passed House Bill 173, legislation that addressed this very issue and prohibited foreign governments from purchasing agricultural land, water rights, mining claims, or mineral rights in Idaho. Crim emphasized that actions could, and should, be taken at both the state and federal levels to ensure a robust and appropriate response.
The roundtable concluded with a strong message on the need for strategic actions to protect and enhance America's critical mineral supply chain, ensuring its security against foreign manipulation and disruptive environmental activism. This event has shed light on the significant role of mining in national security and local economies, underscoring the urgency for continued dialogue and decisive action in this crucial sector.