Pew lauds mining reform bill, reports taxpayers losing billions

(Photo/Zengrrl, Flickr)
(Photo/Zengrrl, Flickr)

On the same day a West Virginia lawmaker is expected to introduce the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009, the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining today released a report finding industry subsidies could cost American taxpayers up to $1.6 billion in the coming decade.

Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is looking to reform the General Mining Law of 1872, signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, which allows for the royalty-free extraction of gold, uranium and other hard-rock minerals from public lands across the West.

The House passed a similar bill in 2007 but the Senate failed to take action during the 110th Congress. Rahall’s bill would impose a 4 percent royalty on existing mines and an 8 percent royalty on new mines — percentages that are in line with what the coal, oil and gas industries currently pay.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also is reportedly interested in moving mining reform forward in the Senate early this year.

“We are pleased that chairman Rahall is making mining law reform a top priority,” said Velma Smith, manager of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, a project of the Pew Environment Group. “We look forward to working with chairman Rahall, chairman Bingaman and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to finally fix this outmoded law, which has been a boom for a handful of global mining companies and a bust for American taxpayers.”

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