Wednesday, August 06, 2008

That 1872 Mining Law

Earl Devaney, the no-nonsense Inspector General for the Interior Department, which has the responsibility for all things mining, including abandoned mine sites, has issued a report on the dangers those abandoned sites posed. Today's NY Times has an editorial on that report's findings.

After an extensive one-year investigation, Mr. Devaney concludes, in language that is always blunt and at times incendiary, that both the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service have “put the public’s health and safety at risk” by failing to clean up or seal off abandoned mine sites. Several deaths and injuries have already occurred — one mine swallowed an entire vehicle, the report says — and “the potential for more deaths and injuries is ominous.” ...

Among the many flaws of the 1872 mining law is that it has never forced mining companies to clean up their messes. Last fall, the House passed a reform bill that would strengthen environmental controls on new mines and raise money to clean up old mines by forcing companies that mine gold, silver, copper and other hard-rock minerals to pay royalties just like oil companies do.

The House Bill, while not perfect, does go a long way towards ameliorating the dangers these old mines pose. The Senate, however, has yet to make even the slightest move to consider the issue. Odd? No, not really.

The House bill has some support in the Senate, but it also has one powerful opponent: Harry Reid, the majority leader who is a miner’s son and whose home state of Nevada does a brisk business in mining.

Sen. Reid, a Democrat, has shown no interest in forcing the mining companies to clean up their messes and certainly is not interested in the royalty system the House has proposed, a system which oil and natural gas companies have been forced to comply with (well, sorta kinda these past seven years). Now, you'd think that Sen. Reid would be concerned enough about the people of his state and the people who visit his state to make certain of their safety. Apparently, however, you would be wrong.

I guess there are just more important considerations than public safety, namely the interests of campaign contributors.

Heckuva job, Harry.

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