Mineral mining around the world provides resources that are crucial to America’s way of life. Rare earth metals, for instance, are essential for production of cell phones, computers, and televisions, as well as renewable energy technologies like photovoltaic films, wind turbines, and hybrid cars. Precious metals and hard rock materials are mined in high quantities for construction materials, industrial processes, art, jewelry, and currency. However, mining activities can have tremendous impacts on the environment by contaminating soil, groundwater, and surface water, causing erosion and deforestation, and contributing to loss of biodiversity. The high price of gold and other minerals is driving an expansion of mining in many parts of the world, including small-scale artisanal gold mining. In many countries, mining is poorly regulated and endangers the health of miners, communities, and the environment.
The U.S. Department of the Interior has the experience and expertise to help face these challenges. Interior manages 245 million acres of public lands and 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate. It regulates mineral extraction on federal lands to ensure protection of the environment, reclamation of the mine lands after mining is complete, and payment of appropriate royalties to the American people. It also delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how mineral resources interact with the environment.
Interior works internationally -- in places such as Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Indonesia, among others -- to improve mining regulation around the world through technical assistance and training on mine inspection, mine closure, reclamation bonds, and other financial assurance mechanisms for mines. It works with international partners to assess available resources, and it advises the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on mining issues in the negotiation of international trade agreements.