Mining Law of 1872 Debate and Poll
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For more than a century, the 1872 Mining Law has enabled companies to buy mineral-rich public lands for no more than $5 an acre and to extract gold and other precious minerals found there free of charge.
The "Granddaddy of all Giveaways," is the corporate welfare provided to the mining industry under a 125 year old law. The mandates of the 1872 Mining Act allows the mining industry to claim and excavate hardrock minerals on public land at rock bottom rates. There is also a patenting provision that gives away the land itself for $2.50 to $5.00 per acre. No royalties are required on the minerals extracted, such as gold, copper and platinum. Congress's reluctance to reform the Mining Law has resulted in billions of dollars worth of public lands and valuable resources being given away. And the taxpayer foots the bill for the cleanup. According to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, 12,000 miles of rivers have been polluted by mining damage. There are also more than 550,000 abandoned hardrock mines. More shocking is the fact that cleaning up abandoned and polluting mines could cost American taxpayers more than $32 billion.
In 1992, Galactic Resources, the owner of the Summitville Mine in Colorado, declared bankruptcy and left a legacy of cyanide, toxic metals, and acidic runoff that taxpayers will have to pay over $100 million to clean up. In Montana, Pegasus Gold Company filed for bankruptcy and left taxpayers the cleanup of the Zortman-Landusky mine that has contaminated surrounding watersheds with cyanide and acid mine drainage.
In response, the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed to reform weak mining regulations to prevent more of these costly messes. Among other provisions, the proposed reforms would require mining companies to post adequate reclamation bonds to ensure cleanup costs are covered in case of bankruptcy or other problems.
But the Fiscal 1999 Interior Appropriations bill (S. 2237) contained language that would block reform of mining regulations until the National Academy of Sciences conducted a 27 month study of existing regulations.
Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR) offered an amendment to remove the rider so that the proposed mining reform regulations could go into immediate effect.
Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) made a motion to table (kill) the Bumpers amendment. The Murkowski motion was agreed to on September 15th by a 58-40 vote killing mining reform.
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) has attached a rider to the Interior Bill that would cost taxpayers millions by allowing mining companies to patent an unlimited amount of public land for $2.50-5.00 an acre to dump their waste which could cost taxpayers millions in cleanup costs. The Craig rider would amend the Mining Law of 1872, which has allowed the industry to extract more than $240 billion of publicly owned minerals without paying a penny in royalties to taxpayers.