Economic preferences for hardrock mining stopped making sense about a century ago.
When should modern Americans care about legislation signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant? When it causes deep environmental damage, deprives the federal treasury of billions, privileges one industry over others, practically gives away public lands, and hasn’t been significantly altered in almost 150 years.
The law in question is the General Mining Act of 1872, which governs the harvesting of gold, silver, uranium, copper, zinc and other minerals from federal lands. To say it’s long overdue for reform is an understatement.
The law was designed to propel westward advancement. So it did a few things that seem antiquated today.
It exempted hardrock mines from paying a federal royalty on the minerals they took out of the earth, and enshrined a maximum price of $5 per acre for land purchases. It gave mining precedence over other land uses, such as grazing, forestry or conservation. And because environmental protection wasn’t a dominant concern at the time, it made no provisions for safeguarding land and water.
All this made sense in 1872, before Colorado, Montana, Washington and Wyoming were states. It makes no sense today — and the costs of failing to substantially update the law are manifest.
For the rest of this editorial: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-03-26/mining-reform-hardrock-miners-should-pay-federal-royalties