@SenBennetCO, et al., introduce Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017

During mining (top), the water table is often lowered to access ore, exposing the rock to oxygen and creating acid mine drainage. Sealing off a mine can return the water table to pre-mining levels (bottom), creating anoxic conditions inside the mine and preventing further acidification. Credit: K. Cantner, AGI.

From The Durango Herald (Mia Rupani):

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017 on Tuesday to update the nation’s antiquated hard-rock mining laws.

The bill would reform the General Mining [Act] of 1872 that allows companies to extract minerals such as gold and silver on federal public lands without paying royalties, and while avoiding liability for any environmental damage.

The proposed legislation would help pay for abandoned mine cleanup and prevent future disasters.

Bennet referenced the 2015 Gold King Mine spill that sent an estimated 3 million gallons of heavy-metals laced mine wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers in a news release on Tuesday…

If passed, the legislation would make seven primary changes to the General Mining Law of 1872:

  • Require hard-rock mining companies to pay an annual rental payment for claimed public land, similar to other users.
  • Set a royalty rate for new operations of 2 to 5 percent based on the gross income of new production on federal land.
  • Create a Hardrock Minerals Reclamation Fund for abandoned mine cleanup through an abandoned mine reclamation fee of 0.6 percent to 2 percent.
  • Give the secretary of the Interior the authority to grant royalty relief to mining operations based on economic factors.
  • Require an exploration permit and mining operations permit for noncasual mining operations on federal land.
  • Permit states, political subdivisions and Indian tribes to petition the secretary of the Interior to have lands withdrawn from mining.
  • Require an expedited review of areas that may be inappropriate for mining.
  • The bill is supported by leaders throughout Southwest Colorado, including La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff, Durango City Councilor Dean Brookie, San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay and Trout Unlimited’s Ty Churchwell.

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