Domenici Lays Out Priorities For Hardrock Mining Reform

Senator Seeks Balanced Approach for Mining Reforms

January 24, 2008
05:26 PM
            WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today laid out his priorities for reforming the Mining Law of 1872 at an oversight hearing on hardrock mining.
            While the House of Representatives has already passed legislation that would change the Mining Law, Domenici indicated that he believes the Senate should start with a clean slate and produce bipartisan legislation that can pass Congress and be signed into law.
            “In September of last year, I began reaching out to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to start the process of reforming our mining laws, which have not been altered for 135 years.  Clearly, this is a complex issue that will require compromise and a great deal of hard work.  Nevertheless, I am optimistic that we will be able to find a more balanced approach that will provide a fair return to taxpayers for the use of federal resources while ensuring that America has a robust mining industry,” Domenici said.
            Domenici outlined three major objectives that will dictate his approach to reforming the mining law.  They include replacement of patenting with a more modern form of secure tenure, imposition of a prospective and profits-based royalty; and establishment of an abandoned locatable mine reclamation fund to clean up sites that threaten the environment and public safety.
            “It is important to remember that while the Mining Law itself has not been updated, there have been numerous new environmental laws that still are applicable to mining.  For that reason, and in light of the fact that America increasingly relies on foreign countries for minerals, I believe that the scope of our efforts should be limited to patenting, royalty, and abandoned mine issues.  Striking the right balance will be key to our efforts, and Senator Bingaman and I should move forward with drafting legislation as quickly as possible,” Domenici said.
            Domenici noted that China, Russia and other foreign countries continue to lock down long-term mineral supply arrangements through state mining company investments abroad.  The Senator believes that this trend exposes our nation to potentially harmful supply disruptions that could have a disastrous impact on our economic security.  Given the importance of minerals as the basic building blocks of industry and technology, Domenici says that we must insist on responsible development of our domestic resources to avoid a significant economic and competitive disadvantage over the long term.