Manchin: ‘The Time Has Come To Make Changes’ To Mining Law Of 1872

Manchin leads robust discussion and finds agreement that responsible mining reform is needed

October 5, 2021

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Mining Law of 1872. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, stressed the need for updates and reforms to the nearly 150-year-old mining law.

“Modern mining works at an enormous scale using modern technology that would have been inconceivable back in 1872. Unfortunately, this scale has contributed to some enormous abandoned mine problems and the public is often stuck with the bill. Unlike the coal industry, where every coal company pays into an abandoned mine land reclamation fund, there is no revenue stream to address the enormous legacy of environmental degradation from hardrock mining in the western United States. It strikes me as fair that taxpayers get a share of the profits and a means to address abandoned mines in exchange for the privilege of conducting mining operations on public lands. While we may disagree on the precise path reform should take, I hope we can all agree that the Mining Law is outdated for the current needs of society and industry and that we should carefully consider updates to address these shortfalls,” said Chairman Manchin.

Throughout the hearing, Chairman Manchin made the case for reforming the Mining Law and advocated for sensible solutions such as adding mining royalties. Doing so, the Chairman insisted, would allow for fair returns to taxpayers and a means to address abandoned mines without unduly discouraging mining investment. All of the witnesses agreed that a variety of reforms to the Mining Law of 1872 made sense, and several echoed the Chairman’s concerns.

“Every commodity produced on public lands has an associated royalty or sale proceed that is used for restoration or remediation. We do it with oil and natural gas. We do it with coal. We do it with timber. And there is no reason we should not do it with hardrock minerals, especially when the need to clean up abandoned mines is so immense and there are so many benefits for communities, local economies, and the health of our lands and waters. We strongly support inclusion of reasonable royalties and increased user fees as key elements of an updated 1872 Mining Law” said Chris Wood, President and CEO, Trout Unlimited.

“Unlike many fiercely partisan issues, reasonable people from both sides of the aisle and even the industry itself, know we must update the policies that govern hardrock mining. The case is clear. No business would set a price for land and stick with it for 150 years, despite changing market conditions. No one thinks simply giving away valuable minerals for nothing makes fiscal sense. And companies should not be allowed to leave toxic messes on our land and avoid the tab for cleanup. Taxpayers deserve better. I look forward to working with the committee to make reform, at long last, a reality,” said Autumn Hanna, Vice President, Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Chairman Manchin also emphasized that mining reform can be pursued responsibly while still reducing America’s reliance on overseas supply chains for critical minerals and noted that his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act makes investments that will kick start domestic critical mineral processing, production, and recycling.

“Now, more than ever, developing new sources of critical minerals is vital to our energy independence and national security… It makes no sense at all to put our lithium-ion battery supply chain in the hands of foreign actors like China when we have lithium here that can provide a reliable source for domestic manufacturing. To that end, the Energy Act that we got enacted almost a year ago and the bipartisan infrastructure bill pending in the House would make significant investments in the domestic critical mineral supply chain,” said Chairman Manchin.

The hearing featured witnesses from Trout Unlimited, National Mining Association, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Barrick Gold Corporation, and Wyo-Ben, Inc. To read their testimony click here.  

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.