Why is reforming the 1872 mining law important, and will it impact the Montanore and Rock Creek mines? Reform is critical because the law, which was written 138 years ago, continues to govern the use of our public lands. It is under this law that the Rock Creek mine was permitted by the Forest Service. In doing so, the agency claimed it could not deny a permit because the mining law deems mining the “highest use” of our public lands. Clearly, the law needs to be rewritten to reflect the new demands on our forests and rangeland, and also the numerous environmental concerns that were not present in 1872.
Mining reform should include criteria by which land managers can deny a project based on potential impacts to unique and sensitive ecosystem. Reform should protect our aquatic resources and prevent mines from operating that unduly degrade our creeks, streams, and lakes.
Legislation reforming the mining law could have significant impacts on the proposed Montanore mine by giving federal land managers the authority to deny the mine based on its impacts. Currently, the Forest Service is relying on its interpretation of the 1872 mining law in issuing mine permits.
A significant reform bill, crafted by Nick Rahall, passed the house in 2008. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced S. 796, the “Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009,” into the Senate. While not perfect, this bill does attempt to right some of the historic wrongs of the current law. Currently, efforts have been stalled due to opposition from Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Please help reform an archaic mining law by contacting your representatives in Washington and ask them to support mining law reform. For more information: http://www.earthworksaction.org/us_program.cfm
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