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Funding could create tens of thousands of jobs while restoring clean water, fish and wildlife, and eliminating public safety hazards

Feb 14 — Late last night, the U.S. Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, including as much as $1.5 billion for abandoned mine clean up on public lands. The $1.5 billion dollars will be given to the National Park Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for construction, capital improvement, maintenance and other land management activities, including remediating abandoned mines. The Senate-passed version of the bill had specifically allocated $105 million for abandoned mine cleanup.

“These much needed funds will create thousands of jobs, reduce water pollution, eliminate public safety threats, and restore fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities across the country,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director for EARTHWORKS.

Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the state of Montana show that abandoned mine cleanup projects generate 23-65 jobs for every $1 million spent. If the full $1.5 billion were spent on abandoned mine cleanup, that translates into 34 – 97 thousand new jobs. Abandoned mines are littered across the country — funding their cleanup would be a boon to many states, especially in the west. This funding is an important first step in dealing with this massive problem. The EPA estimates that 40% of the headwaters of western watersheds have been polluted by mining.

“The price tag for cleaning up the half a million hardrock mines that scar landscapes across this nation stands at an estimated $50 billion,” continued Pagel. “A dedicated funding source is needed to continue to create jobs through reclamation while protecting communities and the environment.”

Only real and meaningful reform of the 1872 Mining Law will create this dedicated funding source and make sure mining continues on public lands in the most responsible manner, avoiding future abandoned mines. Funding for abandoned mine clean up can create a restoration economy that reinvigorates local economies.