The mining reform America really needs – by Jennifer Krill (The Hill – February 1, 2018)

Jennifer Krill is executive director of Earthworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions.

In recent months, President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke have moved to gut bedrock environmental laws in order to accelerate the mining of so-called “critical minerals.” They claim America is over-reliant on foreign countries for these minerals and that fast-tracking permits for domestic mines will strengthen our national security.

It is either nonsense or a deliberate deception: a trojan horse built out of toothpicks and duct tape. The administration is using a national security rationale as cover for a gift to the mining industry, proposing further erosion of already flimsy community and environmental protections against the impacts of hardrock mining.

Yes, we need to change U.S. mining policy, but not to loosen oversight. Communities across the country are living with mining pollution, and taxpayers — not the polluters — too often are paying for cleanup.
The General Mining Act that governs today’s mining industry was signed into law in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. It’s a relic of the Manifest Destiny era of pick-and-shovel miners, completely out of touch and out of scale with the landscape-level impacts of today’s mining operations. Too often these mines leave behind devastation that taxpayers must pay for and communities must endure.

It’s time mining companies took responsibility for their pollution, but they won’t go along quietly. For decades the mining lobby has blocked much-needed 1872 reform and any other attempt to strengthen public oversight of the industry.

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