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Senate Mining Reform Initiative Would Bring Bring 19th Century Law into 21st

Washington, D.C., 04/02 — Today, for the first time in over a decade, the Senate is moving forward with reform of one of the most archaic policies governing our public lands. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has introduced S. 796, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009, to regulate the mining of hardrock minerals — like gold, copper and uranium — on public lands. This bill will create jobs and provide economic opportunities for rural communities while cleaning up a massive legacy of toxic mining pollution.

” Chairman Bingaman should be applauded for his leadership on this issue,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director for EARTHWORKS. ” This bill builds on the money allocated by the most recent stimulus package to clean up abandoned mines by creating a dedicated fund to facilitate clean up of the half a million abandoned mines littered throughout the West. This money would provide jobs in places where its needed most, rural communities too often the victim of mining's 'boom-bust' cycle.”

S. 796 funds abandoned hardrock mine cleanup with three fees: a royalty on new hardrock mines permitted on federal lands — similar to what all other extractive industries have paid for decades, a fee for lands used in mining operations, and a reclamation fee on all hardrock mining. The reclamation fee alone could create an estimated 55,000 new jobs over the next 10 year for rural western communities.

“The mining industry's free ride needs to end,” said Cathy Carlson, Policy Advisor for EARTHWORKS. “Western mining communities need jobs and its time for taxpayers to get some return for the precious metals taken from public lands. With Chairman Rahall in the House and now Chairman Bingaman in the Senate pushing these important reforms forward, we are closer than ever to finally updating this antiquated law. “

In addition to creating revenue streams to protect public health and western water from abandoned mine pollution, the bill also creates processes to identify resource conflicts on federal lands in the West and protect important national treasures from unnecessary and undue degradation due to mining.