Lost among many pre-holiday activities, including President Trump signing the tax bill into law, was the President’s issuance of an Executive Order on Critical Minerals on December 21. Aimed at reducing disruptions in America’s access to minerals, and reliance on foreign sources, the directive seeks to assure adequate supplies of “rare earth” materials for U.S. industry and technology. A statement from the Interior Department, which also includes an embedded link to the Interior report mentioned in the Executive Order, specifically mentions a focus on surveying, mapping and topographic data.
Such critical, “rare earth” minerals are essential to the U.S. economy. A 2015 exposé by the CBS television program “60 Minutes” showed how such materials are needed for computers, cars, precision-guided missiles and devices such as cell phones and televisions. A 2013 study by Yale University found that scarcity of these rare metals, needed in everything from electric car batteries to solar panels to wind turbines, is hampering the growth of renewable or “green” energy technologies.
It is estimated that only 20 percent of the surveying needed is complete, an Interior Department representative told me. The Executive Order issued by President Trump is an important step for many reasons – national security, economic growth, and clean energy. The mining of these materials can, and should, be conducted with sensitivity to the environment. The Executive Order seeks an efficient environmental review and permitting process. All of this means one thing for surveyors – a huge potential demand for their services.