Mining reform versus jobs: A false choice
By Lauren Pagel
September 16, 2011
While corporate mining fat cats are rolling in dough thanks
to record high gold prices, the hardrock mining industry
pays exactly zero in royalties to American taxpayers for
publicly-owned minerals. Royalties that could fund mine
cleanup jobs. Photo: Flaming Zombie Monkeys
This week, the House Natural Resources Committee held the third installment in their continuing series focused on American jobs and the energy and extraction industries. The premise of the hearing – that reasonable mining regulations to protect taxpayers and water resources always come at a cost to jobs and the economy – sets up a false choice for Americans.
We do not have to sacrifice our public lands to solve our nation’s economic crisis. Responsible management of our resources can both help bolster our economy while protecting our waters and national treasures for future generations.
Real and meaningful reform of the 1872 Mining Law would do just that.
At the hearing, entitled “Creating American Jobs by Harnessing Our Resources: Domestic Mining Opportunities and Hurdles,” Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) announced plans to introduce 1872 Mining Law reform legislation this fall.
Mining Law reform legislation, long championed by Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), would end the longstanding boondoggle that allows mining companies to take minerals like gold, copper and uranium from public lands for free, with no return to the federal treasury.
With soaring metals prices and skyrocketing industry profits, the mining industry should be stepping up to do the right thing – pay their fair share to help out in tough economic times. The debt Super Committee is beginning its process to tackle deficit reduction, and ending subsidies for both mining and fossil fuel industries should be part of that plan.
This antiquated Mining Law has long allowed the mining industry to fleece the taxpayer while remaining the nation’s largest toxic polluter. The outdated 1872 Mining Law is inadequate to regulate modern mining, which uses chemicals such as cyanide to leach metals from rock, leaving the landscape scarred with toxic waste piles and pit lakes.
I hope that Congressman Markey’s legislation not only requires compensation to taxpayers for the precious resources taken from public lands, but also protects drinking water from mine waste and declares some unique places off-limits to extraction.