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WV at Center of Effort to Tame the “Wild West” of Mining

November 2, 2007

Washington, DC – A mining reform bill passed yesterday in the U.S. House has West Virginia taking a close look at mining practices of the "Wild West." In an effort led by West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall, the House voted to update a law from more than a century ago, that lets mining companies in the Western U.S. tap into gold, silver, and uranium on federal land, without paying royalties like coal and gas producers, and without similar cleanup requirements.

Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, says while the Act is aimed at the Western states, it also sends a message to states like West Virginia, that share a mining heritage.

"Today's successful vote signals the end of an era when only a handful of powerful mining companies could dictate the content of the nation's mining laws."

Danowitz says the laws for the so-called "hardrock" mines were set in the 1800s to encourage settlement in what was then frontier territory. But the frontier is long gone and, she adds, the laws are long overdue for a change.

"The law here stuck out like a sore thumb, and I think we should commend Chairman Rahall for taking the leadership to bring parity to hardrock mining, and to provide a law that is going to protect taxpayers and the environment."

President Bush has threatened to veto the Act, saying it would hinder the nation's mining economy. Danowitz argues that the law is needed to protect taxpayers, the environment, and communities in mining regions.

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WV