The Environmental Protection Agency is employing a disturbing strategy to evaluate a major new mine project by passing judgment on whether it will damage the environment before the company even determines how the venture will work.

The Pebble Limited Partnership wants to mine a deposit in southwest Alaska that holds one of the largest concentrations of copper, gold and molybdenum in the world—at least 80 billion pounds of copper, 100 million ounces of gold, and five billion pounds of molybdenum.

The mother lode of minerals is estimated to be worth $200 billion to $500 billion. Copper is a mineral considered critical to the nation’s economy and is used in computers; molybdenum is used in steel production.

While the unelected bureaucracy of the EPA is trying to stall or block the mining of critical elements, which the U.S. mostly imports from China, Congress passed legislation last week to speed up the mine permit approval process from five years to less than two years in order to advance U.S. self-reliance in obtaining those minerals.