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Media Contact:

Brendan McLaughlin, 206.892.8832, bmclaughlin@earthworks.org

Today White House climate and energy advisor John Podesta spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center about the administration’s approach to energy infrastructure. In his remarks, Podesta spoke about the need to reform our mining law in order to accelerate development of clean energy infrastructure like solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles–all of which require minerals. Unfortunately, hardrock mining on federal public lands is governed by the Mining Law of 1872, one of the most outdated, regressive laws in existence. Podesta called on Congress to reform the 1872 Mining Law. The administration can also update our outdated public lands mining rules without Congress. Since its enactment, public lands are plagued with hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines, which have polluted 40% of headwaters in the western United States, leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions in clean-up costs. 

Industrial mining disproportionately impacts Indigenous communities across the West and Alaska. The decades of pollution and destruction of cultural and environmental values at the Zortman-Landusky open pit cyanide leach gold mine adjacent to the Ft. Belknap Reservation in Montana is just one example of the woeful shortcomings of the current federal regulations. Modern hardrock mines continue to cause significant harm to public lands and resources, including the pollution of surface and groundwater, depletion of springs and aquifers, contamination of land and the air, harm to fisheries, displacement of wildlife, and destruction of important sacred sites.

Below is a statement from Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel:

“It is imperative that the White House use its existing authority to strengthen mining permitting rules and give communities–particularly Indigenous communities–a proper say in what happens to their land and water. Reforming the 1872 Mining Law is an essential step in building a just and sustainable clean energy economy, and the best way to do that would be through Congress. A legislative overhaul would offer the most protection to mining-affected communities and could end this 150-year taxpayer ripoff. Yet we cannot afford to wait for more Congressional inaction.”


  • Just Minerals: Why a responsible renewable energy transition hinges on mining law reform.