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Media Contact:

Alan Septoff, (202) 271-2355, aseptoff@earthworks.org, Aaron Mintzes, (919) 302-6393, amintzes@earthworks.org

Statement of Earthworks Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Mintzes
“Today the House of Representatives put American communities and taxpayers ahead of foreign mining companies by passing a final defense bill without a dirty mining rider. This “critical” minerals rider was a bald attempt by the mining lobby to eviscerate community and environmental oversight of their industry—the nation’s largest toxic polluter. We hope this is the last we see of this sham rider, which they have tried and failed to tack onto a number of bills.

We need to strengthen our outdated mining laws, not weaken already flimsy community and taxpayer protections. The real reform we need is to update the arcane 1872 General Mining Law that still governs the industry. Families across the country live with pollution from irresponsible mining, and taxpayers — not polluters — too often pay for a cleanup bill which has reached $50 billion.”

The initial House version of the FY’19 National Defense Authorization Act included a rider, sponsored by Rep. Amodei (R-NV), completely unrelated to national security: redefining “critical minerals” so expansively that it includes everything from gold and copper to sand and gravel. Under the rider, any project to excavate such “critical” minerals would have enjoyed an expedited permitting process, minimal environmental review, and limited public input. It would have allowed federal agencies to forego National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for virtually any type of mining operation, burdening states and municipalities with environmental review costs. Most importantly, the rider limited the public process Americans deserve to provide meaningful public input on government mining decisions on public lands.

The House/Senate conference committee stripped the rider from the final version of the bill — and that’s what just passed the House of Representatives, will soon pass the Senate, and then be sent to the President to be signed into law.