Monday, June 23, 2008

Time For A New Mining Law

Today's NY Times had an interesting editorial on getting the General Mining Law of 1872 updated to reflect environmental concerns. The House has already passed a bill dealing with the issue, but the Senate hasn't even proposed one, and there's a really sorry reason for that.

Enticed by soaring prices in recent years for gold, silver, copper and uranium, mining companies have been filing claims at a record clip. But the General Mining Law of 1872, which governs them, is as flimsy as ever.

A relic of the boisterous era of Western expansion, the law gives hard-rock mining precedence over all other uses of the public lands, including conservation. It demands no royalties and provides minimal environmental protections. Its legacy, if it can be called that, is a battered landscape of abandoned mines and poisoned streams.

Recent rumblings suggest that mining law reform may be moving from the list of legislative lost causes to reality. Last fall, the House passed a good bill that would require companies to pay royalties, just as oil and coal producers do, strengthen environmental safeguards, give local officials a role in decision-making and allow the interior secretary to veto mines that threaten irreparable harm to the environment.

This leaves matters in the lap of the Senate, where the majority leader, Harry Reid, controls the agenda. Mr. Reid is a miner’s son whose home state of Nevada depends heavily on mining, and it is hard to overstate his lack of enthusiasm for serious reform.
[Emphasis added]

That the Senate Majority leader might have a vested interested in the status quo (or at least his financial backers might) is no excuse for not drafting and passing a bill consistent with the House version. There really is no excuse for mining companies being exempt from paying royalties, nor is there an excuse for the devastation they have wrought. Even conservative local officials want something done so that they can have some input in any future decisions that will directly affect their communities.

If Sen Reid is unwilling to do anything, then maybe we need a new Senate Majority Leader, one who will actually lead in doing the right thing.



Blogger mal said...

I wonder, too, (I'm too lazy to research it at the moment) if Senators Byrd and Rockefeller from my home state of WV are at all culpable.

3:41 AM  

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