BLM - Bureau of Land Management

10/09/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/09/2019 11:29

Interior Proposes Rule to Support Mineral Development on Public Lands

WASHINGTON - The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) proposed rule to streamline the royalty rate reduction process will remove unnecessary and overly burdensome requirements providing much needed regulatory relief and efficiencies for non-energy solid leasable minerals, such as soda ash, potash, phosphate, sodium, potassium, sulphur and gilsonite. These minerals are used to make every day products such as fertilizer, toothpaste, printing ink, and cosmetics. The proposed rule is expected to save up to $5 million in regulatory costs over the next decade.

'The Trump administration is dedicated to enhancing the exploration and development of Federal solid mineral resources in an environmentally conscious manner,' said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. 'By eliminating burdensome regulations, the U.S. will have a stronger foothold to compete globally in non-energy, solid, leasable commodities markets and increase job opportunities at home instead of abroad.'

Mineral development is an important land use within the BLM's multiple-use mandate, providing economic opportunities and commodities that are essential to maintaining a high quality of life. In fiscal year 2017, the development of non-energy minerals on BLM-managed public lands contributed $13.4 billion to the national economy and supported 48,000 jobs.

The U.S. was once the world's leading producer of soda ash, a non-energy solid leasable mineral, but Chinese production surpassed domestic production in 2003. With updates in the proposed rule that streamline the reduction process for non-energy solid minerals, the proposal will improve the BLM's ability to support development and production of the Federal mineral estate.

'Non-energy solid minerals are vital in the production of everyday products such as toothpaste and garden fertilizers,' said Department of the Interior Acting Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond. 'With this proposed rule, the BLM will provide industry with much-needed relief when tough markets make it more difficult to develop these minerals, which support thousands of American jobs in local communities.'

'Wyoming is home to large deposits of soda ash, and the exploration, development and production of this commodity is done under state-of-the-art industrial, labor, and environmental standards,' said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. 'A reduction of the federal royalty rate to two percent is essential to the long-term global competitiveness of the soda ash industry. This proposed rule will protect jobs in both Wyoming and other states in the industry supply chain and will also enable strategic capital investment for future growth and job creation.'

'Reducing the Federal royalty rate will allow America's soda ash to stay competitive in the global market,' said Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi. 'Wyoming produces more than 90% of the nation's soda ash, and it is the State's top international export. The BLM's proposed rule to streamline the rate reduction process is great news for our State.'

'The production of soda ash supports thousands of jobs in Wyoming and across the country in a variety of industries, including mining, shipping and manufacturing,' said Wyoming Senator John Barrasso. 'American soda ash producers already have to battle the unfair foreign trade practices of China and other countries. They shouldn't have to fight higher costs here at home. This proposed rule will pave the way for the Administration to reduce the soda ash royalty rate and give American soda ash producers the certainty they need to stay competitive in the global market.'

'It is critical that U.S. royalty rate policies do not put domestic non-energy mineral producers at a competitive disadvantage with their foreign competitors in a global economy,' said Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA). 'I want to commend President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for taking this action today. This rule would provide the BLM with the ability to quickly evaluate and respond to market dynamics to ensure that royalty rates on various minerals - including on soda ash of which a major amount is produced in the Mojave Desert - are not hampering responsible resource development and job creation.'

'Wyoming has the largest deposit of trona in the world and the soda ash it creates is a critical component in products we use every day. Today's proposed rule to allow for the reduction of the royalty rate to mine trona is a vital step towards ensuring producers in Wyoming remain competitive with Turkey and China, which are dramatically distorting the global market by subsidizing production and creating synthetic soda ash,' said Congresswoman Liz Cheney (WY). 'I have worked extensively with the Trump Administration on this proposed rule to ultimately level the playing field for U.S. trona producers, which will allow them to expand their operations and create more jobs in Wyoming. I look forward to our continued work on this important issue for our State as the rule-making process moves forward.'

'Over the past decade, American soda ash producers have faced significant challenges from foreign, synthetic soda ash producers in China and Turkey. Sodium carbonate production is a $1.8 billion industry which provides hundreds of jobs to my constituents in Trona and thousands more to hardworking Americans across the nation. The previous Administration chose to triple the Federal royalty rate for soda ash, severely impacting its production,' said Congressman Paul Cook (CA). 'More recently, Trona has been significantly damaged by major earthquakes, causing serious disruptions to local industry. This important rule sets the stage for rapid relief that will protect and expand mining jobs, strengthen our national security, and help local soda ash producers in my district recover from a devastating natural disaster. I thank the BLM and the Administration for taking action to support this critical industry.'

The proposed rule would streamline the process for lessees to seek - and/or for the BLM to provide - relief in the terms for rental fees, royalty rates and/or minimum production requirements associated with these minerals.

Informed by Secretary's Order 3354, which calls for improvements in the exploration and development of Federal solid mineral resources, the proposed rule also addresses permitting efficiencies and processing times.

The proposed rule would make two key changes that could affect the royalties and rental fees paid by producers of solid leasable minerals other than coal and oil shale on Federal lands. First, it would streamline the process by which producers of these minerals could apply for a reduction in their royalty rate, rental fee or minimum production requirements by lessening the information requirements for operators who apply. This would allow the BLM to approve a reduction in the rental fee, royalty or minimum production requirements on a lease-by-lease basis in response to an application from a producer, if the agency finds that a lease cannot be successfully operated under current market conditions.

In addition, the proposed rule would allow the BLM to reduce the rental fee, royalty rate or minimum production requirements on its own initiative if it finds that a reduction is necessary to develop a type of solid minerals on an area or on an industry-wide basis.

By reducing informational requirements, the BLM estimates the proposed modifications would have a beneficial impact of up to a half-million dollars per year over the next decade on industry and government staff time in the form of reduced paperwork burdens.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the BLM will announce that it will accept public comment for 60 days.

Interested parties may submit comments, identified by the number RIN 1004-AE58, by any of the following methods:

  • Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134 LM, 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20240, Attention: RIN 1004-AE58.
  • Personal or messenger delivery: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 20 M St. SE, Room 2134 LM, Washington, DC 20003, Attention: Regulatory Affairs.
  • Federal eRulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter 'RIN 1004-AE58' and click the 'Search' button. Follow the instruction at this website.