A new year and a newly seated Congress nearly always portend to U.S. miners that the biennial rite of mining law reform is on the horizon.
Despite the layoffs of hundreds in the industry, financial woes, and numerous project delays in U.S. hardrock mining, Democratic Congressional mining opponents have persisted in their introduction of their perennial biennial mining law reform bill, legislation lawmakers say “will finally force corporations to 1) pay royalties for mineral extracted from public lands and 2) contribute to a fund for clean-up costs.”
Ex-officio House Natural Resources Committee member Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, the ranking member on the Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-California, are among the 16 co-sponsors of the H.R. 963, the Hardrock Mining Reform and Reclamation Act of 2015.
The new bill would levy an 8% royalty on new mines and a 4% royalty on existing mines. It would also use those royalties and money raised by new pollution fees to clean up abandoned U.S. hardrock mines.
The legislation would also end the mining claim patenting system, as well as “provide clear authority to federal land managers to reject a proposed mine if it would unduly degrade public lands or resources”. The measure also empowers “state, local and tribal governments to petition federal authorities to withdraw lands from mining “in order to protect drinking water, wildlife habitat, cultural and historic resources, or other important values”.
H.R. 963 would also establish additional federal reclamation standards and bonding requirements on top of the existing federal regulations already requiring mine reclamation and bonding.
Among the environmental organizations supporting the bill are The Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the Western Organization of Resource Councils and Earthworks.
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