While Earthworks supports a reclamation fee for the hardrock mining industry, in the absence of such a fee, using coal funds is an unfortunate temporary solution to this serious issue. Hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines litter the western United States, with a $50 billion price tag for clean up according to the EPA. With no dedicated fund to clean these sites up, many states must rely on funds from the coal industry fund to remediate any hardrock mines at all in their state.
For the state of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and Laguna and Acoma Pueblos, cleaning up abandoned uranium mines can be a life or death issue. Radioactive material from uranium mining can leach into ground and surface water and be blown by the air, directly impacting surrounding communities. This has caused serious public health issues in the area, and funds are desperately needed for remediation.
While HR 785 will help restore some western waters and remediate some abandoned hardrock mines, a stead-stream of long-term funding is the only real solution out there to tackle this serious problem. The Obama administration and several members of Congress have introduced proposals that would deal with this issue and finally reform the 1872 Mining Law.