POLL: Protect Montanans from obsolete mining law
MISSOULA – Montana voters strongly support protecting our land, water and wildlife from the obsolete 1872 Mining Law, according to a statewide survey released today.
Sportsmen and conservation groups released findings of a poll today that show overwhelming support for updating the federal 1872 Mining Law that governs hardrock mining on national forests and other federal public land.
The poll shows that:
- 93 percent support an update of the law to increase water protections.
- 81 percent support an update of the law to recover a royalty.
- 87 percent support an update of the law to better balance mining with other important land uses like hunting and fishing.
- 95 percent support an update of the law to compel the mining industry to help pay for the cleanup of abandoned mines and polluted waters.
“Montanans have a deep connection to the outdoors so it's no surprise that the results from the poll overwhelmingly support reasonable reform,” said Land Tawney, Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining. “What is surprising is that mining on our public land is still governed by this frontier-era law.”
A bipartisan mining law reform bill, the “Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007,” passed the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Montana Sen. Jon Tester became interested in reform when hearings were held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But, ultimately reform efforts stalled in the Senate.
“We were disappointed that mining law reform did not happen this past Congress, but look forward to the upcoming congress showing leadership and finally putting this old law to bed” said Tawney.
The 1872 Mining Law has long been criticized as obsolete. It was enacted under President Ulysses S. Grant, and it hasn't been substantively changed.
The law allows mining companies to extract valuable minerals from public lands, with no royalty payment to the American people. The 1872 Mining Law gives precedence to mining over all other land uses, including drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat, and it contains no environmental standards or reclamation criteria.
“It's only fair that the mining industry pay a reasonable royalty to the U.S. taxpayer and share the burden of abandoned mine cleanup,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks. She noted Montana has more than 2,000 miles of polluted streams and thousands of abandoned mines – many of which need cleanup so they do not pollute water or threaten public safety.
Millions in public funds are being spent to cleanup pollution at mines permitted under the 1872 Mining Law, including the Zortman Landusky, Beal Mountain, and Basin Creek mines.
Increased metal prices have triggered a dramatic increase in mining claims staked on public lands. Since 2003, the number of mining claims on public land in the West has increased by 62 percent, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
The poll, conducted by American Viewpoint, surveyed 600 very likely Montana voters from September 18th – 21st, 2008. It was commissioned by Sportsmen for Sensible Mining and Earthworks, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus four percent.
To download a copy of the poll, go to https://earthworks.org/publications.cfm?pubID=371
For a fact sheet summarizing the provisions in the House Bill H.R. 2262, go to https://earthworks.org/pubs/EWfs_hr2262postvote.pdf.