February 13, Washington, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) today introduced the Hardrock Mining Reform and Reclamation Act of 2015 that would rewrite the 19th century law governing the mining of gold, copper, uranium and other hardrock minerals on federally managed lands.
Current statute was signed into law in 1872 by President Ulysses Grant and, unlike federal coal or oil & gas law, does not:
- charge a royalty for extraction of public hardrock minerals,
- allow land managers to deny hardrock mine permits,
- or charge a fee for the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines.
Representative Grijalva’s bill would update the mining law by addressing those issues and:
- Allow land managers to balance other public land uses such as drinking water protection, recreation, hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat when deciding whether to permit a hardrock mine.
- Prohibit mines that would pollute water in perpetuity.
- Provide a fair return to the U.S. Treasury on minerals taken from public lands.
- Start a fund to pay for the $50 billion clean up bill for the hundreds of thousands of abandoned hardrock mines that litter our public lands.
- Protect core wildlife habitat, roadless national forest lands, wild and scenic rivers from irresponsible mining.
- Give local and state governments the ability to petition to put lands off limited to mining.
“Representative Grijalva’s bill would bring 19th century mining law into the 21st century,” said Aaron Mintzes, Policy Advocate of the Washington, D.C.-based conservation group Earthworks. “If it becomes law it would bring badly needed reforms that work for western communities, taxpayers, the environment, and responsible mining companies.”
In the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona, a Canadian mining company has proposed the Rosemont copper mine within Coronado National Forest that is now being permitted under the 1872 Mining Law. Among other problems with the proposal, including widespread local opposition, siting within endangered jaguar habitat, and pollution and depletion of drinking water, the same engineering firm that was just found at fault by an independent panel for last year’s Mount Polley mine waste spill, the worst in U.S. or Canadian history, is also involved in the tailings dam proposal for the Rosemont mine.
“Rosemont is a bad mine in the wrong place that is broadly opposed by the local community it would be inflicted upon,” say Gayle Hartmann, President of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas. She continued, “The Forest Service tells us that the 1872 Mining Law doesn't let them say no to this proposal, even though this mine clearly shouldn't be built. Grijalva's bill would let them say no. We applaud him for it. Hopefully Congress will pass it.”