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Media Contact:

Brendan McLaughlin, bmclaughlin@earthworksaction.org


Today Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich introduced the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act. The bill would overhaul the antiquated 1872 Mining Law, which is out of touch and out of scale with modern industrial hardrock mining. Our mining law desperately needs to be updated, according to the Biden administration. Minerals demand for electric vehicle batteries and other renewable energy infrastructure is skyrocketing. Unlike other extractive industries, under the 1872 law, mining companies pay no royalties. Whoever stakes a claim and discovers valuable minerals on public lands claims those riches—$300 billion and counting since 1872— without a return to taxpayers. And unlike coal miners, hardrock miners pay no reclamation fee, leaving taxpayers a $50 billion cleanup bill for approximately 500,000 abandoned hardrock mines. The outdated law was designed to “settle” the West, in part to evict the Indigenous peoples already living there for tens of thousands of years. A century and a half later, our mining laws still privilege mining over all other uses, including the rights and perspectives of Indigenous communities. 

Below is a statement from Lauren Pagel, Earthworks policy director:

“The reforms in this bill would ensure the transition to clean energy does not repeat the injustices of dirty fossil fuel extraction. Environmental damage from mining leaks and spills threatens public health across the country, disproportionately in Indigenous communities. And who is stuck paying to clean up the mess? American taxpayers. We need to hold the mining industry accountable for its pollution to protect communities, save taxpayer dollars, and create mining cleanup jobs. 

“The most sustainable way to meet growing minerals demand is by recycling, reusing, and extending the life of materials and products we already have. Where new mining is necessary, we must take special care to protect communities and natural resources, particularly those relied on by Indigenous peoples and protected by treaties.”