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“Today the Senate put our troops ahead of foreign mining companies, and for that we are grateful. While we applaud the decision to exclude this “critical” minerals sham in their version of the defense funding bill, the Senate’s job is not finished. A rider added to the House version means this dangerous rollback of environmental safeguards is still in play. As the House and Senate conference a version to send to President Trump, Senators need to keep that final bill clean. Then we can get on with the type of mining policy reform our country really needs.

The General Mining Law that governs today’s mining industry was signed into law in 1872, when miners worked with pickaxe and mule — a far cry from today’s open pit mines that can decimate entire watersheds. It’s time the burden was placed where it belongs: on the mining companies responsible for the pollution. The public and the environment have paid the price for too long.”

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BACKGROUND:
With the passage of HR 5515 as amended, the House and Senate can begin conference negotiations over the final FY’19 National Defense Authorization Act to send to the President’s desk.

The House version of the bill includes 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 enjoy an expedited permitting process, minimal environmental review, and limited public input. It would allow 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.

This rider limits the public process Americans deserve to provide meaningful public input on government mining decisions on public lands. The Senate version of the bill did not include such a rider. Representatives and Senators on the conference committee must now negotiate a final bill, and determine whether or not to include the provision.

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Alan Septoff, 202.887.1872×105, aseptoff@earthworks.org, Aaron Mintzes, 202.887.1872×116, amintzes@earthworks.org