The House of Representatives today approved changes to the law that governs mining of hardrock minerals. The House cleared, 244-166, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (HR 2262), which puts in place new royalty and environmental requirements for the General Mining Law of 1872. Signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, there is broad support for changes to the 135-year old law.
HR 2262 applies to mines which extract minerals such as gold, copper and uranium from Federal lands. Unlike coal, oil and natural gas producers, companies that operate such mines on public lands do not pay royalties to the government. The legislation also sets new environmental requirements for hardrock mining industry and gives local communities and Indian tribes an increased role in federal land management decisions.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, both have said that it is time to modernize the law. Both have indicated that they intend to work together on a Senate version of reform legislation. Indeed, ENR already has had a hearing on hardrock mining, on Sept. 27.
Sen. Bingaman: “With the House vote today, the action will move to the Senate on a topic that is of great importance to New Mexico and the West. The mining industry plays an important role in our part of the country: It provides jobs. It fuels local economies. It produces raw material for industry. And it contributes to our national security.
“At the same time, the industry has been criticized, on both fiscal and environmental grounds. In my view, the root of these problems is the Mining Law of 1872. Efforts to modernize this antiquated law have literally been going on for decades, but results have been elusive. So I’m pleased that there is renewed interest on the part of many in the industry and in the environmental community in trying to update this law. I look forward to working with Sen. Domenici on legislation that can achieve these long-awaited reforms.”
Sen. Domenici: “Modernization of the Mining Law is a top priority of mine. While the House has now passed legislation, I believe its bill would result in irreparable harm to America’s mining industry. In particular, I’m concerned with the potential loss of jobs and our nation’s ability to meet demand for critical minerals with domestic supplies if the House bill were to become law. Therefore, the Senate should start with a clean slate and draft legislation that will make reasonable changes to the mining law.
“I’m encouraged by the willingness of all stakeholders to work constructively on this effort. I look forward to working with Senator Bingaman, Majority Leader Reid, and others to draft a bill that makes real progress, can pass the Senate, and will keep our domestic minerals industry viable for years to come.”
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