WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 – Prices for precious metals are soaring, but the hardrock mining industry remains exempt from paying royalties for the riches it extracts from U.S. public lands, and from paying to cleanup the pollution from abandoned mines. Legislation to make the mining industry pay its share and clean up its messes was welcomed today by Western communities who live daily with the impacts of mining.
"With record-high metals prices and skyrocketing industry profits, it’s time for mining companies to pay their fair share,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director for Earthworks. “Reform of America’s antiquated mining laws to protect water resources, fund cleanup of abandoned mines, put special places off-limits to mining and make the industry pay taxpayers what we are owed is long overdue.”
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced a large package of bills today to make sure the oil, gas and mining industries pay their fare share. A key component of this comprehensive legislation would overhaul the General Mining Law of 1872, which allows mining of gold, copper, uranium and other metals virtually anywhere on Western public lands, with few environmental safeguards and no return to the taxpayers. Hardrock mining is the only industry that extracts resources from public lands that does not pay federal royalties.
There are tons of ideas out there to help out the Supercommittee decide which services to cut and revenues to raise. Their report is due on November 23 when we expect that Congress will get to have an up or down vote (that is, no amendments allowed) on their recommendations.
Some of the ideas are better than others. The better ones look at the low hanging fruit: government subsidies of incredibly successful industries-especially the oil, gas, and mining companies. Here are a couple of the good ones.