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Mineral Land Regulation & Reclamation

Frequently Asked Questions about Critical Minerals

(last updated 12/02/2022)

  1. What are Critical Minerals and why are they important?
  2. Which Critical Minerals are present in Oregon?
  3. What is the state of Critical Mineral exploration in Oregon?
  4. How are Critical Minerals produced?
  5. What is DOGAMI's role in Critical Mineral exploration and production?
  6. How does DOGAMI support Critical Mineral exploration and production in Oregon?
  7. What measures are in place to ensure that Critical Minerals are mined responsibly?
  8. What are the potential socioeconomic impacts of Critical Mineral mining?
  9. What role do Tribal Governments play in the mine permitting process?
  10. What role does the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife play in the permitting process?

What are Critical Minerals and why are they important?

A Critical Mineral is a mineral that plays an essential role in manufacturing any product without which the United States economy or national security might suffer significant consequences. The Energy Act of 2020 [Pub. L. 116?260, div. Z, ?101(a), Dec. 27, 2020, 134 Stat. 2418], passed by bipartisan majorities in the U.S. House and Senate in 2020, defines the term ?Critical Mineral? as a non-fuel mineral that is at high risk for potential supply chain disruptions and is an essential part of one or more energy technologies. The act directs the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to compile a list of Critical Minerals every three years. The most recent list, released by USGS in February 2022, can be found at Some Critical Minerals, such as lithium, are essential components of rechargeable batteries and will play an increasingly important role in U.S. strategies to transition to renewable energy sources and achieve energy independence.

Which Critical Minerals are present in Oregon?

Historic mining records show that Oregon has produced the following Critical Minerals from the USGS 2022 list: Aluminum, Antimony, Nickel, Chromium, Cobalt, Manganese, Molybdenum, and Tungsten. Oregon has also produced ores of a number of elements not on USGS 2022 critical minerals list; Gold, Silver, Copper, Mercury, and Uranium. Lithium is known to be present in Oregon but has yet to be commercially produced. There are potentially several other elements on the 2022 critical minerals list that may be present in Oregon. Their presence is yet to be fully assessed and DOGAMI is currently exploring the need to fund a program around this assessment.

What is the state of Critical Mineral exploration in Oregon?

Oregon?s unique geologic setting and previous mineral exploration suggest that Critical Minerals may be present in many parts of the state. However, only one project, exploring a potential lithium deposit near McDermitt, in southeast Oregon, has obtained the permits needed for exploratory drilling. DOGAMI anticipates that interest in exploration and extraction of Critical Minerals will increase in Oregon in the future, driven by developments in renewable energy and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, recent federal legislation aims to increase research into the development of new and recycled sources of Critical Minerals to ensure U.S. energy independence.

How are Critical Minerals produced?

Methods used to extract Critical Minerals vary depending on the location, depth, and chemical properties of the mineral and source material. Source materials containing Critical Minerals are first removed mechanically by either underground or surface mining methods. Once removed, the target mineral is then extracted from the source material through chemical processing. Some Critical Minerals can also be recovered through processing of mineral rich groundwater or surface water. Once the target minerals have been extracted from the source material, any solid or liquid wastes are disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations and the requirements of the permits under which the mine is operating.

What is DOGAMI's role in Critical Mineral exploration and production?

The State of Oregon has laws governing mineral resource exploration and extraction (Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 517). Permits for exploring potential mineral deposits are separate from the operating permits required for producing Critical Minerals using a chemical process. Information on the different types of permits is available at

Chemical process mines require permits from different agencies under their own authority to ensure that natural resources are protected. DOGAMI is the state agency responsible for working with permittees to coordinate mine permitting through all the required agencies. Once a mine is active, DOGAMI is responsible for ensuring that it continues to operate in accordance with all permits issued for operation and all plans for reclaiming mined lands when production is concluded. Should a mine site inspection find practices outside of the issued permit conditions, DOGAMI and its state and federal partners have a number of options to bring an operation back into compliance, including assessing civil and criminal penalties.

How does DOGAMI support Critical Mineral exploration and production in Oregon?

DOGAMI provides regulatory guidance and permitting assistance to ensure that all mineral exploration and extraction aligns with DOGAMI?s mission of making Oregon and its communities safe and prosperous. DOGAMI also seeks to work holistically with mine operators, government agencies, and other stakeholders to help the state of Oregon form policy and assist industry in the responsible development of natural resources. DOGAMI works with permittees to ensure that they understand the regulatory requirements for mining in the state, the permits required by different agencies, and the requirements for reclaiming mined lands after production is concluded.

Oregon House Bills 2021, 2065, 2475, and 3141 were enacted in 2021 to help the state achieve 100% clean energy by 2040. DOGAMI sees its role in Critical Minerals extraction as a part of Oregon?s clean energy transition.

What measures are in place to ensure that Critical Minerals are mined responsibly?

Oregon?s consolidated mine permitting process, for mine operations that require onsite chemical processing, requires coordinated permitting through different agencies (Tribal, local, state, federal), depending on the type of mining project. Operations that could potentially impact surface or groundwater are required to obtain permits through state and federal agencies that regulate water resources. The same is true of potential air impacts, impacts to ecological resources, such as wetlands, and impacts to cultural resources. Additionally, mine sites that are located on federal lands are required to follow federal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) regulations. DOGAMI ensures that each mine permit is developed around the proposed mining operation and the needs of the local community by providing opportunities for public engagement at different stages of the application process. In addition to permitting and regulation of operations, DOGAMI also ensures that each mine project has plans in place to reclaim mined lands once mining has concluded.

What are the potential socioeconomic impacts of Critical Mineral mining?

The exploration and production of Critical Minerals can have significant socioeconomic impacts on communities surrounding mine sites. Potential benefits of Critical Mineral mining include added job opportunities in rural areas, development of infrastructure to facilitate industrial activities, and increased activity for local businesses. Because many potential Critical Mineral deposits in Oregon are in rural areas, exploration and production of Critical Minerals has the potential to impact both Native and non-Native communities.

In addition to the direct impacts on surrounding communities, Critical Minerals will also play a central role in helping Oregon achieve its clean energy goals. Oregon legislation seeks to address climate change while extending the economic, health, and environmental benefits of those efforts to all of Oregon?s communities.

What role do Tribal Governments play in the mine permitting process?

DOGAMI engages with Tribal Nations during the permitting process on a government-to-government basis to ensure that the perspectives of Tribal stakeholders are considered during permitting. Tribal engagement includes consultation about economic, ecological, and cultural resources. As part of the permitting process, DOGAMI coordinates directly with potentially impacted Tribes, providing the opportunity to assess areas of cultural value to ensure that the mine project will not disturb culturally important sites or artifacts. DOGAMI may require mine operators to have an archeological survey conducted and submitted directly to the Tribes and the State Historic Preservation Office for concurrence prior to issuing a permit.

What role does the Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife play in the permitting process?

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) provides technical assistance to DOGAMI during the exploration and mining permitting processes. ODFW is charged with representing the public interest for fish, wildlife and their habitats, and implementing the Wildlife Policy (ORS 496.012) and Food Fish Management Policy (ORS 506.109), which direct fish and wildlife to be managed to prevent the serious depletion of any indigenous species and to provide the optimum recreational and aesthetic benefits for present and future generations of the citizens of Oregon.

ODFW utilizes the ODFW Fish and Wildlife Habitat Mitigation Policy (OAR 635-415) to guide implementation of the habitat components of the Wildlife and Food Fish Management policies, which includes evaluating land and water development actions, and provide recommendations on the avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures related to fish, wildlife and habitat resources. Direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts can occur from land and water development actions. DOGAMI may condition the exploration and operating permits to address the potential impacts to fish and wildlife. This may include timing restrictions for wintering wildlife and Greater Sage-Grouse, buffer recommendations to minimize impacts to riparian and aquatic resources and other measures for protecting species that may be listed or proposed for listing by either federal or state as sensitive, threatened, or endangered. It is important to note that ORS 517.956 defines additional authorities related to chemical process mining.

For projects that impact habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse, ODFW administers the Oregon Sage-Grouse Mitigation Program to conserve sage-grouse habitat. The Mitigation Program was designed to coordinate with developers to site and design proposed development projects in sage-grouse habitat to limit negative impacts. Proposed development projects in sage-grouse habitat that require a county or state permit and are identified as a conflicting use, as outlined in OAR 660-023-0115(7), must coordinate with the Mitigation Program to ensure the Mitigation Hierarchy outlined in both OAR 660-023-0115 and OAR 635-140-0025 has been achieved.

DOGAMI recommends early coordination with ODFW during the exploration phase and throughout the project development process to ensure that potential impacts to fish and wildlife resources are accurately identified, avoided, and minimized to the degree possible through best management practices, and mitigated where impacts remain after avoidance and minimization measures have been implemented. In addition to early coordination with ODFW staff, there are existing tools that can assist project developers in evaluating the potential impact to fish and wildlife species and habitat that may occur within or near a proposed project. This includes, but is not limited to:

More information about the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife can be found on the ODFW website

More about DOGAMI?s role in mineral exploration and production can be found in Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) Chapter 632. The consolidated permitting process for chemical process mines is covered under OAR 632 Division 37. Each mine permit application is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Information about the process of permitting a chemical process mine can be found on the DOGAMI website at