Biden Administration calls for passage of Good Samaritan legislation; reforming mining laws 

Mine entrance with polluted water coming out of it

New recommendations include providing Good Samaritans with liability protections to clean up abandoned mines, modernizing mining laws, and improved permitting processes. 


  • Corey Fisher, Trout Unlimited Public Lands Policy Director,   

Arlington, VA. (September 12, 2023) – Today, the Biden Administration released a new report, Recommendations to Improve Mining on Public Lands, from the Interagency Working Group on Mining Reform with policies to support more responsible domestic mining, accelerate abandoned mine cleanups, and foster greater community and Tribal engagement. The working group was formed in 2022 to “support President Biden’s vision for a whole-of-government effort to promote the sustainable and responsible domestic production of critical minerals.” 

Among the recommendations released today, the Biden Administration urged Congress to pass ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation to encourage abandoned mine cleanups from those that had nothing to do with the creation of the pollution. Currently, federal laws treat those who want to clean up abandoned mines as if they themselves are polluters, creating liability risks that stymie cleanup efforts. Good Samaritan legislation creating a pilot program for groups like Trout Unlimited, state agencies and others to clean up abandoned mines has earned broad bipartisan support in Congress with legislation in the 117th Congress supported by nineteen Senators on both sides of the aisle. 

“We thank the Biden Administration for its efforts to help groups like Trout Unlimited clean up abandoned mines without putting ourselves in legal jeopardy,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “We have the experience and expertise to clean up our waters but the law treats us like polluters. We hope that Congress heeds the Biden Administration’s call to pass commonsense legislation that will allow abandoned mine cleanups to move forward, creating both clean water and jobs.” 

Additional recommendations in the report include a royalty on hardrock minerals that helps fund abandoned mine cleanups, improving engagement with communities and Tribes, providing land management agencies with greater discretion to determine where and how mining occurs on public lands, and a more consistent permitting process for mining on public lands.  

“Increasing the supply of critical minerals necessary to speed the conversion to renewable energy is going to result in more domestic mining,” continued Wood. “But to allow that expansion to occur under the framework of a 150-year-old mining law is akin to building a new home on a foundation of rotting wood. We need a 21st Century mining law that provides certainty for not only the mining industry, but also certainty for communities, tribes and the health of our lands and waters. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to strike this balance.”  

Learn more about Good Samaritan legislation and Trout Unlimited’s work to clean up abandoned mines at   

About Trout Unlimited:    

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities.