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WASHINGTON, DC—Today, a coalition of 76 conservation groups, environmental advocates, and mining reform organizations sent a letter to Members of Congress urging swift passage of the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act. The bill was introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on April 26, 2022 to reform the hardrock mining law that has governed mining operations since 1872.  

“For 150 years, the hardrock mining law has prioritized the interests of mining corporations over the needs of the American people and Indigenous and other mining-affected communities,” the groups wrote. “Over the years, mining has threatened many sacred and irreplaceable places, including national parks, yet community members and land managers have been unable to reject mine proposals where they do not belong.” 

The bill would update the law to include strong environmental protections, a fair return to taxpayers by requiring a new royalty on hardrock mining operations, and the creation of an abandoned mine cleanup fund to address long-standing hazards to wildlife habitats and human health. The bill recognizes that Indigenous communities have long borne the disproportionate impacts of mining operations and will ensure that tribal lands, sacred sites, and water and land resources are protected. 

“The Fort Belknap Indian Community supports House Natural Resources Chairman Grijalva’s Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act,” said Fort Belknap Indian Community President Jeffrey Stiffarm. “Reforming the Mining Law of 1872 is long overdue. The Fort Belknap Indian Community has been directly affected by mining atrocities and to this day, suffers the effects and is having to react and remediate the damage allowed by outdated and loosely translated mining laws. The Fort Belknap Indian Community is facing permanent surface and groundwater contamination from decades of hard rock mining in the Little Rocky Mountains on and adjacent to the Fort Belknap Reservation and continues to suffer from multiple devastating and lasting harms to the Tribes’ beneficial uses, including impairment of drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, agricultural, and industrial uses. Acid mine drainage has likewise resulted in public health risks and continues to threaten the Tribes’ powwow grounds, ceremonial and sacred sites, including other areas of cultural significance. Negative environmental impacts are exacerbated by these outdated laws. All people, all governments, all environmental forums will benefit by updated and standardized laws. The Fort Belknap Indian Community is very supportive of the new legislation that helps to protect our sacred sites and requires meaningful tribal consultation prior to permitting activities that impact our lands.”

“The Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act of 2022 recognizes that hardrock mining causes irreparable damage to sacred and valuable resources and disproportionately harms Indigenous Peoples,” the groups continued. “It recognizes that in order to meet the clean energy needs of the future, we cannot sacrifice other communities to get there.” 

The letter was signed by 76 organizations including Earthjustice and Earthworks.

“For 150 years mining companies have extracted our country’s mineral resources, failed to adequately compensate taxpayers, left behind toxic sites that poisoned local communities, and destroyed sacred Indigenous lands and environmental treasures without consequence,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley. “While we understand that mining is an important component in transitioning us to a clean energy future, it must proceed in the most sustainable way possible with strong environmental protections, robust community engagement, and meaningful tribal consultation. Thank you Chair Grijalva and Senator Heinrich for recognizing the need to update our mining laws to the twenty-first century and protect the people and special places that need it the most.” 

“We welcome Chairman Grijalva’s and Senator Heinrich’s leadership by introducing the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act of 2022,” said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel.The Biden administration has repeatedly said we must reform our outdated federal mining laws. This legislation answers the President’s call to ensure protections for our shared public lands and the communities that call those lands home. The clean energy transition cannot be built on dirty mining. The mistakes of the fossil fuel era must not be repeated. Minerals demand must first be met with recycling, reuse and extending the life of products already in use.  If new mining is necessary, protecting communities and natural resources, particularly those relied on by Indigenous peoples and protected by treaties, must be a top priority. We urge Congress to swiftly pass these necessary reforms.” 

Click here to read the letter.

Brendan McLaughlin, (206) 892-8832, bmclaughlin@earthworksaction.org