Bennet Announces Push for Bill to Update Nation's Hard Rock Mining Laws, Which Have Not Been Updated Since 1872
Would Bring Balance to Hardrock Development on Public Lands, Provide Support to Clean up Abandoned Mines and Ensure Fair Return to Taxpayers
Citing the need to bring the nation's mining law into the 21st century, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today announced his push for a bill that would bring balance to hardrock mining, accelerate efforts to clean up abandoned mines and protect public health, and ensure Colorado taxpayers get a fair rate of return for mineral extraction on public lands.
"It simply doesn't make sense to have a mining law in place designed when Ulysses S. Grant was in the White House. It's time to bring our mining law into the 21st century." said Bennet. "The mining industry plays an important role in Colorado's economy, and this bill strikes the right balance between development and the protection of our critical land and water resources. And it ensures taxpayers, who own these lands, receive a fair rate of return for mineral extraction on public lands."
Enacted under the Administration of Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 in the wake of the California ‘Gold Rush,' original mining laws were passed to encourage settlement of the American West by offering prospective settlers free minerals and free land. However, despite several attempts, past efforts to modernize the law and ensure taxpayers receive a fair return for resource extractions have not been met with success.
The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009 would update current law to reflect new realities by: 1) providing much-needed funding for abandoned mine cleanup and reclamation. 2) ensuring a fair rate of return to taxpayers, 3) putting an end to the patenting of public lands, and 4) providing reasonable protections for specific lands from new mining claims. Bennet is a cosponsor of the legislation.
Specifically, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009:
- Sets a royalty on hardrock minerals taken from public lands: While oil, gas, and coal taken from public lands all have royalty rates ranging from 8%-17%, current law allows gold, uranium and other hardrock minerals to be taken for free. This proposal is on a sliding scale of a 2%-5% royalty.
- Puts an End to Patenting on Public Lands: The 1872 Mining Law allows claimholders to buy or "patent" public land for as little as $2.50 per acre, regardless of location, property value, or potential conflict with other public uses. This legislation ends the "patenting" of public lands.
- Requires new consideration for sensitive public lands: The bill requires an expedited review of Roadless areas, wilderness study areas and other sensitive lands to determine if those areas should be placed "off limits" to new mining claims.
- Expedites Cleanup of Abandoned Mines: Establishes bonds for restoring water quality and establishes a reclamation fee on hardrock minerals - the associated funds will be used to expedite the cleanup of abandoned mines.