Congressional initiative would end billions in public land and mineral giveaways, protect scarce water, create jobs

New legislation would update the 1872 Mining Law


July 10, 2014

July 10, 2014, Washington, D.C. – U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Ranking Member Raul Grijalva today introduced a long-needed overhaul of the 142-year-old law governing mining of minerals such as gold, copper and uranium on federally-managed public lands.

“This bill is a win-win for taxpayers and the environment,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director for Earthworks. “This outdated relic of a law costs Americans billions and puts our water at risk.”

The 1872 Mining Law was signed into law by President Ulysses Grant. Originally intended to spur the nation’s westward expansion, the 19th century statute still governs the extraction of hardrock minerals on over 350 million acres of public lands in the western United States. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act would:

“This bill would bring the 19th century mining law into the 21st century, and help the economy in the process,” said Earthworks executive director Jennifer Krill. “The 1872 Mining Law reform is a win-win for both jobs and the environment, and ensures that taxpayers start getting a fair deal instead of giving away our minerals for free.”

“There are some places that simply shouldn’t be mined,” said Mary Costello of the Rock Creek Alliance, a citizen’s group fighting to protect a Montana wilderness area from a proposed mine that the permitting agencies say could generate water pollution forever. She continued, “We need a mining law that lets us safeguard a major watershed that is absolutely vital to our local economy, while protecting the spectacular public lands that are a part of our nation’s wilderness system. This bill does that.”

“I am grateful that Congressman DeFazio is taking leadership to reform our country’s outdated mining laws,” said Ann Vileisis of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, a group working to protect the headwaters of National Wild and Scenic Rogue and Smith rivers from the threat of nickel strip mining. “Many of us were outraged to learn how little public lands agencies can do to protect our clean water and salmon runs because the outmoded mining law makes mining the highest use for public lands. Now, it’s rigged to give mining companies a big advantage, but local communities will be left to deal with the pollution.”

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Tagged with: reform, mining, 1872 mining law

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