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US critical minerals production targeted in latest GOP coronavirus stimulus bill

A coronavirus response and economic stimulus measure released Sept. 8 by Senate Republicans targets U.S. critical minerals production, requiring the federal government to permit new mineral projects as fast as possible.

The reportedly $300 billion bill put out by the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., includes language that would compel the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments to complete federal permitting and reviews for mining and mining-related activities "with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, while supporting vital economic growth." The agencies would expedite permitting by establishing timelines for final decisions and performance goals, expanding and institutionalizing permitting process improvements and developing mechanisms for resolving disputes between national, regional, state and local officials.

A procedural vote on the bill is expected as early as Sept. 10, Fox News reported on Sept. 8. The measure will need 60 votes to pass the chamber and there are only 53 Republican senators, so GOP lawmakers will need Democratic support to get it across the finish line.

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Similar to a measure released earlier in the year by House Republicans, the bill would also make investments in U.S. study of critical mineral supply chains, including the creation of a critical minerals research office within the U.S. Energy Department and a similarly-focused consortium.

It would mandate that the U.S. Labor Department issue a comprehensive report on the domestic availability of technically trained to work in critical minerals production, education and research and would establish a federal grant program for colleges seeking to fund work on critical minerals education and research.

The bill also includes language that would authorize $23 million in fiscal year 2021 through 2028 to pay for federal research of advanced separation technologies for extracting and recovering rare earth from coal and coal byproducts.