Thursday, November 01, 2007

AZ Dems help US House pass mining law reform

Irresponsible mining has left an ugly toxic mess across the west, including here in Ajo AZ

WASHINGTON -- Today in a wise move for the public-interest, the U.S. House of Representatives approved comprehensive legislation to reform the antiquated Mining Act of 1872 that has governed hardrock mining on public lands for 135 years.

The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (H.R. 2262) passed by a vote of 244 to 166, with 24 Republicans and all AZ Dems in support. Good move Reps. Grijalva, Giffords, Pastor and Mitchell.

This legislation, first introduced by the Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, will put an end to the giveaway of public lands to mining companies.

It requires a royalty on valuable minerals extracted from federal lands, identifies categories of federal lands that will no longer be open to hardrock mining, establishes an overall environmental standard to mitigate the degrade of the environment, limits operations permit and makes them subject to a renewal process, and mandates lands be restored to a condition that supports its uses prior to mining.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, said "It is an understatement to say that the West has changed dramatically since 1872, but this law has not kept pace. Those of us from the West need this bill to pass to protect the health of our communities, scarce water supplies and our public lands, which are under continuing threat from the outdated mining law."

"In my home state of Arizona, hardrock mining has left behind a legacy of contaminated lands and rivers, abandoned mines leaching poisonous metals into groundwater, and other hazards to the public."

"A 21st century economy needs 21st century laws," said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. "That fact is abundantly clear when it comes to the Mining Law of 1872 – an outdated and inadequate law regulating the extraction of valuable minerals from lands owned by the American people."

"The 1872 mining law was enacted 40 years before Arizona became a state," said Giffords. "It encouraged development throughout the American West, and helped transform many sleepy towns throughout Southeastern Arizona into thriving cities. But times change and our laws need to change with them. Today’s West depends on the health and conservation of our fragile environment..."

Congressman Grijalva added, "Chairman Rahall’s bill puts those standards in place, requiring clean up and reclamation of mining sites. His bill makes certain lands off limits to mining, as they should be. It also ends the free-for-all that this law has created over the years, where companies have used the patenting process to purchase inholdings within National Forests and other public lands for a few dollars per acre, only to have the federal government later buy them out for millions when they threaten to develop the land. The federal government has spent billions of dollars over the years, rebuying patented mining lands."

"I am also pleased that the Committee approved amendments I offered to allow Native American tribes to petition the Secretary to withdraw from mining lands of cultural or historical importance to them. Tribes have been just as impacted as other communities by the impacts of mining and should be able to weigh in on these important matters."

Rep. Grijalva’s amendment preserves and protects tribal rights and resources and grants tribes the same authority as states and their political subdivisions to petition the Secretary of Interior to withdraw lands of religious and cultural value to the tribes.

Earlier this year, as Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Rep. Grijalva held a field hearing in Tucson. The hearing provided opportunity for testimony on the mining law by local officials, experts, and the public, informing the Committee and providing insight on the economic and environmental implications associated with mining on public lands.

- adapted from RG news release

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