Democratic News

OPENING STATEMENT

Jan. 24, 2008

“Welcome to today’s hearing regarding reform of the Mining Law of 1872.  We will hear from two panels – one will focus on surface management issues associated with hardrock mining, and the other will address the topic of royalties.   Witnesses from the Administration are here to provide technical information.   
  
“Efforts to comprehensively reform the Mining Law have been ongoing literally for decades, but have repeatedly failed.  When the Mining Law was enacted in 1872, in the aftermath of the California gold rush, Congress sought to encourage settlement of the West.  In 1920, Congress enacted the Mineral Leasing Act, and removed oil, gas, coal and certain other minerals from the operation of the Mining Law.  In so doing, Congress enacted a management regime for the leasing of these minerals and required payment of a royalty to the United States for oil, gas and coal.

“However, as we all know, the Mining Law of 1872 continues to govern the disposition of hardrock minerals from Federal lands.  While Congress has stepped in and prevented the patenting of lands through annual appropriations riders, patenting provisions allowing the transfer of mineralized Federal lands for $2.50 or $5.00 per acre continue to be found in the U.S. Code.  In addition, under the Mining Law, billions of dollars of hardrock minerals can be mined from Federal lands without payment of a royalty.  General land management and environmental laws apply, but there are no specific statutory provisions under the Mining Law setting surface management or environmental standards.      

“There are a growing number of people saying that this Congress may well be the time to achieve this long-awaited reform. The House of Representatives passed a comprehensive reform bill in November.  I look forward to working with Senator Domenici and other interested Senators on both sides of the aisle in putting together a Senate version of reform legislation.  We will continue to work hard on this and see what progress we can make.  It will require compromise on all sides.

“Thank you again to the witnesses. I know that we had to postpone this hearing previously, and we appreciate your being here today.”

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