Ranking Member Grijalva, Sen. Heinrich Introduce Mining Reform Legislation to Protect Communities, Tribal Consultation, and Environment
Washington, D.C. – House Natural Resources Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) today introduced House and Senate versions of the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act to modernize the nation’s severely antiquated Mining Law of 1872. The bills will address major environmental justice concerns, protect the environment, and ensure a fair return for the American people.
“Securing the minerals we need for our clean energy future cannot come at the cost of our environment, our health and safety, or tribal sovereignty,” said Ranking Member Grijalva. “For more than a century and a half, the mining industry has operated under an outdated, free-for-all claims system that gives them carte blanche to pollute and destroy, while American taxpayers get stuck with the cleanup bill. It’s past time to reject this harmful status quo and move forward with commonsense reforms that protect Americans and ensure a more responsible, accountable mining industry. I want to thank Senator Heinrich for lending his leadership to join me in this effort and encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same.”
"We cannot go all in on a clean energy future with a 19th century mining policy on the books. This antiquated law has become a driving force behind centuries of legacy mining pollution that is leaking toxic heavy metals and acid mine drainage into streams and rivers all across the West,” said Senator Heinrich. “Unlike the way we manage other publicly-owned natural resources like coal and oil, we don't collect any royalties on hardrock minerals to return fair value to taxpayers. We also don't have a reclamation fee to help with cleanup work, and we lack a clear process to protect the public lands that aren’t appropriate for mineral development. It’s overdue we change that."
Regulation of hardrock mining in the United States has remained virtually unchanged for more than 150 years. This outdated system has allowed mining companies—many of which are foreign-owned—to extract more than $300 billion worth of gold, silver, copper, and other valuable minerals from U.S. public lands without paying a single cent in royalties to the American people. These same companies have left taxpayers with billions of dollars in cleanup costs for abandoned hardrock mines and other toxic mining pollution, which has already contaminated 40% of the headwaters of western watersheds. Indigenous communities are especially at-risk; the vast majority of clean energy minerals are found within 35 miles of tribal lands.
The clean energy transition is driving increased demand for certain minerals, making the need for mining reform even more urgent. The Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act updates requirements and standards for hardrock mining operations to be more similar to those that apply to oil, gas, and coal development on public lands. Among other important provisions, the bill will:
- Ensure a fair return to American taxpayers by establishing a royalty on mining operations.
- Require federal agencies to conduct meaningful consultation with Tribes prior to permitting mining activities that will impact tribal communities.
- Level the playing field between mining and all other uses of public lands–-such as grazing, hunting, and energy development–-allowing it to be managed through existing land-use planning processes.
- Give federal land managers clear authority to protect special and sacred areas from future mining.
- Set strong environmental standards for mining activities and long-term reclamation. It also sends a portion of new royalty revenue to the Abandoned Hardrock Mine Reclamation Program established in the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act to make the industry, not taxpayers, pay for cleanup of abandoned mine sites.
Original cosponsors of the House bill include Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii).
Original cosponsors of the Senate bill include Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Supporters of the House and Senate Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act include more than 80 environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and allies signed on to a letter of support for the bill. In addition, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, National Parks Conservation Association, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited support the bill.
Statements of Support
“Transition minerals will help power our shift to clean energy, but current mining laws and regulations fail to protect the communities, sacred sites, and water resources most impacted by mining practices,” said Earthjustice Legislative Representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley. “While we can’t avoid all mining, the reforms presented in this legislation will update our laws to the 21st century and provide us with a blueprint for protecting people, special places, and sacred sites alongside energy development.”
“Hard rock mining in our Little Rock Mountains devastated the Fort Belknap Indian Community. We pray, fast, hunt, and fish in these Mountains. Their waters feed our communities. In the 1970s they dug open pit mines and used acid mine drainage to extract gold. These mines contaminated sacred lands and waters, and altered the flow of our streams and rivers. We lost tribal members to this contamination and our people will be forever impacted. Meanwhile, these mining companies can disappear in the wind leaving the clean up to others. We will live with this contamination forever. Congress must pass the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act and finally reform the 1872 mining law. For more than 100 years Indian people have been asked to compromise and accept changes to our treaties. Our treaties are the supreme law of the land. Reforming the 1872 mining law is long overdue.” – President Jeffrey Stiffarm of the Fort Belknap Indian Community
"Inappropriately sited mines and legacy mining pollution takes an inordinate toll on clean water, Tribes, local communities, conservation values, and outdoor recreation. A 150-year-old law is no way to govern such a high-impact use of our public lands and waters, particularly when we will need to do more mining to meet the needs of a clean energy transition. The Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act will help to protect the myriad values our public lands and waters provide and help to reduce conflict so that appropriately sited and managed mining projects can proceed with greater certainty." - Louis Geltman, Policy Director, Outdoor Alliance
“Our outdated mining law has let private companies exploit our public lands for more than 150 years. These sensible reforms will help end corporate giveaways and protect our public lands. We've got to make sure minerals needed for the renewable energy transition are mined responsibly, and this bill will help us get there.” - Paulo Lopes, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“A just and clean energy transition isn’t possible if the mining industry and its destructive practices carry on business as usual. Since even before the 1872 Mining Law, Tribal nations, Black, Brown, rural and frontline communities have fought for their health and future in the face of insufficient environmental protections and no requirements for mining companies to pay to clean up their pollution after they leave town,” said Kiara Tringali, Senior Government Relations Representative at The Wilderness Society. “We need a renewable energy transition and it cannot be an excuse to perpetuate injustices and corporate favoritism. We’re counting on Congress to pass the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act to ensure that the minerals we need are extracted responsibly with careful consideration for the wellbeing of our communities, health, water and cultural sites.”
“As we transition to clean energy, we must avoid repeating the injustices of fossil fuel extraction,” said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel. “It is imperative that the White House use its existing authority to strengthen mining permitting rules and give communities–particularly Indigenous communities–a proper say in what happens to their land and water. While a legislative overhaul would be the best way to reform the 1872 Mining Law, we cannot afford to wait for more Congressional inaction.”
“This is a blueprint for smart mining reform that brings our woefully antiquated 1872 Mining Law into the 21st Century,” said Josh Axelrod, Senior Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Our land managers need the tools necessary to properly site mines and ensure environmental impacts are managed. And frontline communities, especially indigenous communities who have long lived with the toxic legacy of hardrock mining, must be given a say in the siting and planning process. These reforms create a rational path forward for mining in this country and can help support our clean energy transition needs.”
“Fair royalties, the ability to protect sacred sites and sources of drinking water, and funding for abandoned mine cleanups are essential components of a modern mining law. We appreciate the efforts to bring a living anachronism into the modern era,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “As Congress debates options for permitting reform, we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help advance mining legislation that ensures certainty needed by industry while providing the tools and resources needed to clean up abandoned mines – one of the nation’s biggest threats to clean water.”
“It’s time to take our nation’s mining laws out of the 19th century and reform them to adequately meet the challenges that face our public lands, waters, and wildlife in the 21st century,” said David Willms, associate vice president of public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “We applaud Rep. Grijalva for legislation that will reform the antiquated 1872 mining law, invest in the cleanup of our public lands and waters, and ensure that the public receives fair compensation for the use of our public lands.”
“Modernizing the General Mining Act of 1872 is one of the most consequential legacies our congressional leaders can leave behind for our public lands and waters. A lot has changed in 150 years and we have a collective obligation to eliminate patenting provisions, cleanup abandoned mines, and establish parity with other extractive industries that pay royalties and have greater regulatory safeguards. It's not only the right thing to do, this legislation will generate new jobs and revenue streams that restore polluted waters and improve management of our natural resources.” - John Gale, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
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