Jewelers of America has delivered a letter to members of the House of Representatives, urging them to vote affirmatively for H.R. 2262, The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007.
“A successful vote will mean Congress is one step closer to reforming the outdated Mining Law of 1872,” says JA president and chief executive officer Matthew A. Runci. “Our members have a direct stake in a healthy, profitable and responsible mining sector in the United States, and this legislation is a meaningful step forward in reaching that goal.”
The bill would permanently ban the sale of federal lands to miners and would require them for the first time to pay royalties of up to 8 percent of gross income from mining, which would go to a fund to clean up abandoned mines. It would also establish new permitting and environmental rules.
The 135-year-old General Mining Law has permitted prospectors to stake private claims to federal lands. It was designed as a way to encourage settlement of the American West. However, over the years, corporate conglomerates have replaced frontiersmen with pickaxes. Environmentalists say the law has also left Western states deeply scarred by abandoned toxic mines.
In his letter on behalf of JA, Runci wrote: “Jewelers of America supports the enhanced viability of mining companies that produce jewelry’s raw materials, but our members also realize that the current Mining Law does not address the considerable impact of mining on watersheds, wildlife or local communities. Failure to modernize the law has proven expensive to Americans and to our environment. JA members see reforms as both necessary and urgent.”
Runci’s letter stated that any reform bill should include the following provisions:
1) Protect the environment, and require strong standards for protecting air and water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and the health of local communities;
2) Protect outdoor values and resources – allow for a consideration of mining as well as other potential uses of our public lands, including conservation;
3) Provide a fair return to taxpayers from federal mineral resources – and a return that is adequate to begin to address our national legacy of abandoned mines;
4) Respect the interest of communities, whether their economies depend on the protection of surrounding public lands, other economic uses or mineral development – and allow them to participate in decisions about their land and communities.
If the House bill is passes, consideration of mining reform will move to the Senate, where further changes in the bill are expected.
Runci said JA will continue to monitor the bill as it moves through the legislature.