Today, Congressmen Markey, Grijalva and Holt introduced important legislation to reform our least favorite outdated law, the 1872 Mining Law.
With just 37 states in our Union at the time, this law was passed to settle the West. Before women had the right to vote, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law that give miners unprecedented access to our public lands. And that law is still on the books today.
The 1872 Mining Law allows metal mining companies (both US and foreign-owned) to mine virtually anywhere on our Western public lands for free – with no return paid to the taxpayer. Charging hardrock mining companies a royalty for the gold, silver, copper and uranium they take from public lands could raise as much as $300 million a year, and clean up the hundreds of thousands abandoned mines that litter the west with a reclamation fee of roughly $200 million a year.
With a federal deficit spiraling, and water a scarce and precious resource throughout the West, it the time has long since passed for us to reevaluate our priorities on our public lands. Currently, mining trumps all other uses, regardless of what surrounding communities want and need. 1872 Mining Law reform legislation like the bill introduced today would allow land managers to balance mining with other uses of public lands, and make sure that our air, land and water is protected.
Earthworks applauds Congressmen Markey, Grijalva and Holt for continuing to make this important issue a priority. Western communities and taxpayers thank you for championing the much-needed reform of this antiquated law.