In his first budget since last year’s devastating Gold King Mine spill, President Obama proposes to help prevent future toxic mine spills by requiring the hardrock mining (e.g. copper, gold) industry to fund the cleanup of its old mines, just like the coal mining industry has for nearly two generations.
Last week, Senators Udall, Bennet, Heinrich, Markey, and Wyden introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 (1872 reform). Pegged as the solution to preventing future Animas River disasters, this legislation will reform the antiquated General Mining Law of 1872 and bring the hardrock mining industry in to the 21st century.
Yesterday, the President delivered to Congress his FY 2016 budget. In the Federal Government, Congress controls the purse strings of our budget process. However, President Obama does get a crack at making the case for what is important to him. And there is no better way to know any politician’s priorities than following where our money goes and who pays for it to get there.
Last month, I blogged about the impending scoping discussions at the US Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (US EITI). US EITI belongs to an international movement that provides credibility to companies and governments where the flows of money between them gets reported and reconciled. Members of a Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) comprised of representatives from industry, government, and civil society met last week to begin discussions about which revenue streams belong in the mix. Oil and gas revenues are a no-brainer. Companies that extract oil and gas from public lands pay royalties to the Federal Government. The Department of Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) carefully tracks these payments and conducts regular audits to ensure accuracy. The tricky part is what to do about hardrock minerals (gold, silver, copper, uranium etc.)
New government report details lack of transparency, data
Washington, DC – A new Government Accountability Office report to Congress reveals that American taxpayers annually give away to mining companies unknown billions in hardrock minerals like gold, copper and uranium. Because the law does not allow taxpayers to charge a royalty for hardrock minerals taken from publicly owned lands, the Interior Department collects no data on their value. In 2011, Interior estimated their sales value at $6.4 billion
Dear Mr President -
Congratulations on your reelection.
Now that the fluff and the fury of the campaign is past, it’s time to buckle down and make the real decisions that are going to determine whether our country moves forward to a more sustainable future. Don’t despair though, Mr. President. We are here to help.
Sustainability -- making decisions today that leave us as at least as well off tomorrow -- is inextricably intertwined with how we use (or don’t use) our natural resources. And that means energy, and mining. I’ll cover mining today, and energy tomorrow.
Today, I attended a press conference held by one of the best guys on Capitol Hill, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Representative Grijalva announced that he and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) (another friend of EARTHWORKS) are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to tell us how much the minerals extracted from public lands and the Outer Continental Shelf are worth.
Released today, the FY 2012 Obama administration budget endeavors to end the taxpayer boondoggle known as federal hardrock mining policy. On behalf of Earthworks and all of the communities we work with in hardrock mining country, I d like to thank the President Obama for taking on this industry that has taken advantage of the antiquated 1872 Mining Law for far too long. The 1872 Mining Law, which lacks both royalties and protections for communities and precious western water resources, has left this country with at least $50 billion dollars in unreclaimed mine sites with no industry contribution to help deal with the problem.
The Obama administration proposes two things that would change the way that mining operates on public lands. Both of these changes would move us a step closer to cleaning up the mess that has been created by the current mining law.
First, the administration proposes a reclamation fee on the production of hardrock minerals based on the volume of material mined. This money would then be distributed through a competitive grant program to states where remediation is needed. This $200 million a year would go a long way in addressing the serious safety and water quality issues at many abandoned mine sites throughout the West.