1872 mining reform bill introduced

Bill to reform 1872 Mining Act praised by anglers

Sept. 20, 2017 (WASHINGTON D.C.) — Lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would provide much needed reform to the 1872 Mining Act by charging royalties and reclamation fees for

mining on federal lands, similar to those imposed on the coal, oil and gas industries.

The bill, the “Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act,” was sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

“We appreciate the leadership of these Senators. We work closely with the mining industry to clean up abandoned mines, but without a dedicated funding source (such as we have for cleaning up abandoned coal mines) fixing the problem is not realistic,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “The EPA estimates that 40 percent of western headwater streams–the same places native trout persist, and drinking water originates–are affected by abandoned mines. It’s time to stop pretending that a law that was written to hasten the nation’s westward migration is adequate to clean up these ticking time bombs that dot the western landscape.”

The outdated 1872 mining law allows hardrock mining companies to extract gold, silver, copper, and other minerals from public land without paying any royalties to fund cleanups of past or present mining impacts. That’s not the case with the coal and oil and gas industry, which for decades has been required to pay royalties to cover the costs of cleanups and restoration.

In Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, for example, five major rivers—the Animas, Uncompahgre, Lake Fork of the Gunnison, Rio Grande and San Miguel—are impacted by old mines discharging a brew of acidic water laden with heavy metal toxins. The pollution can be devastating to aquatic life, agricultural water needs and municipalities.

A primary feature of the bill would be the establishment of an abandoned mine cleanup fund that would finance, and greatly increase the pace of, the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines. TU has a proven record of clean up success through partnerships with a number of forward-looking mining companies, federal, state and county agencies. Such successes could be greatly enhanced, potentially yielding watershed scale success, with the funding boost from such a Reclamation Fund.

“Clean water is vital to our economy and quality of life in the West,” said Ty Churchwell, TU’s San Juan Mountains coordinator. “Our water supply, our recreation economy, our agriculture—all of it depends on healthy watersheds. Having a dedicated funding source for abandoned mine cleanups will help ensure another Gold King type of event does not infect other western communities. We can’t afford not to take action.”

For more information contact Steve Moyer, smoyer@tu.org, 703-284-9406

By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…