US says national security demands easier mining rules

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration proposed smoothing the way Tuesday for more prospecting and mining of dozens of minerals, including on public lands and even in the oceans, calling them essential to the U.S. economy and security.

A Democratic lawmaker called the proposals a potential giveaway to mining industries.

President Donald Trump had asked for Tuesday's federal agency recommendations in 2017. Trump says the U.S. must step up its mining of so-called critical minerals to lessen its need for imports. The proposals come at a time of trade tensions with China that some fear could hit U.S. imports of rare earths and other minerals used by U.S. tech firms and other industries, including defense firms.

The Interior Department has designated nearly three dozen minerals, such as uranium, tin, cobalt and potash, as critical minerals.

The administration is "dedicated to ensuring that we are never held hostage to foreign powers for the natural resources critical to our national security and economic growth," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.

Bernhardt said the department would work "expeditiously" to put the strategy into effect "from streamlining the permitting process to locating domestic supplies of minerals."

Recommendations include speeding up mine permitting, doing more research of possible mining in the oceans, reducing what the government called cumbersome environmental requirements, and weighing the need for critical minerals when it comes to consideration of mining some currently off-limit public lands.

"This administration has set shameful new records for industry giveaways, and this is one of the worst," said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, who said the proposals would further damage public lands.

"The Trump administration is handing over our most treasured places to multinational corporations with no interest in our economy or the livability of this country," he said.

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