By Steve Fiscor, editor-in-chief, E&MJ

This week mining professionals and suppliers gathered at the American Exploration & Mining Association’s (AEMA) annual meeting in Reno, Nevada. “The turnout for this year’s event has been very strong,” AEMA Executive Director Mark Compton said. He confirmed conference attendance was more than 1,650 and thanked the members, sponsors and exhibitors for supporting the event. Outgoing 2022 AEMA President Ron Rimmelman passed the torch to incoming 2023 President Mike Satre.

On Wednesday, December 7, Chris Welton, exploration director for the Americas for Rio Tinto gave a keynote address, Exploration, the Lifeblood of a Sustainable Mining Industry. He explained that geology dictates where resources are found and that no amount of government incentives can bring a project into production if the resources do not exist. The level of government cooperation could, however, dictate an investment decision.

Today, December 8, Alex Jacquez, special assistant to the president for industrial policy and economic development for the White House National Economic Council (NEC), presented the Biden-Harris Administration’s Strategy to Secure Reliable, Sustainable Critical Minerals Supply Chain. The audience was eagerly awaiting an overdue response from the NEC on the Interagency Working Group (IWG) study. He explained they were working hard on the report and it would be available soon. He said the Biden Administration is committed to developing domestic sources of minerals by opening new mines, and recovering minerals from abandoned mines and coal waste.

The IWG convened agency experts and consulted with the public to provide guidance on reforming hardrock mining laws, regulations and permitting policies, created as a response to Section 40206 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

During the Q&A session, he took considerable heat from the audience for the mixed messages from the administration, revoking the Polymet lease in Minnesota with one hand and saying it plans to invest in critical minerals with the other hand. The audience also reminded him that the Mining Law of 1872 is a land tenure law that has served the industry well and should not be drawn into an environmental discussion. They also pointed out that the mining industry already must comply with often onerous, duplicative environmental regulations.