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House passes bill to enable sale of rare earth elements extracted from mine water

MORGANTOWN — The House of Delegates on Monday passed its version of the bill to allow the state or private entities to sell rare earth elements and critical minerals extracted from mine drainage.

Delegate Riley Keaton, R-Roane, offered his view on why he and many others think the bill — HB 4003 — is important.

“This bill is the beginning of some really really great things,” he said, in terms of creating good jobs and attracting advanced manufacturing.

Rare earth elements and critical minerals, he said, are key components in such things as defense technology and chip manufacturing.

The Dominion Post has reported that they are used in more than 200 products across a wide range of applications, including cell phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, flat-screen monitors and TVs, and in defense guidance systems, lasers, and radar and sonar systems.

About 97% of the world’s rare earth element production is from China, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Keaton said China has five times the processing capacity of the rest of the world combined, which affects national security.

By being dependent on China for our defense technology, he said, “We have made a decision to no longer be free.” By the first step enabled in this bill, it lays the foundation for re-industrialization of the state and establishes an opportunity to re-assert American independence.

The bill explains that the state is compelled to maintain standards for clean, pure water and that treatment of mine drainage reduces environmental harm.

It enables parties treating mine drainage — which are waters of the state — to extract rare earth elements and critical minerals from the mine water and use, sell or transfer them. The state Department of Environmental Protection is restricted to deposit its income from water it treats into the Special Reclamation Water Trust Fund or the Acid Mine Drainage Set-Aside Fund. Private parties treating water under a DEP permit may keep their proceeds.

The bill applies to mines abandoned before the 1977 U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act took effect, and for any mines where the bonds were forfeited after 1977.

The bill passed 94-1 and goes to the Senate. All local delegates voted for it. A similar Senate bill, SB 458, passed one committee and is in Senate Judiciary. Because the question of ownership of the materials in the mine water has been raised, the Senate bill specifies that its provisions apply regardless of land or other mineral ownership claims.

Prescription drug bill

HB 4111 clarifies the prescriptive powers of physician assistants and advance practice registered nurses.

Judiciary chair Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, said the bill arose from lessons learned and processes developed during the pandemic, and aims to codify the processes.

The bill eliminates several long paragraphs of existing code and replaces all of that with a couple lines that say PA’s and APRNs may not prescribe any Schedule I drugs, but may prescribe a three-day supply of a Schedule II drug.

Schedule II drugs include hydromorphone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, Adderall, and Ritalin.

The bill passed 94-0 and goes to the Senate.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp