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Congress Talks about ID Mining “Bling”

November 2, 2007

Boise, ID – Idaho's mining history could soon be rewritten. The U.S. House has passed the "Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act," an update of the 135-year-old mining law that covers public lands. If it becomes law, mining companies would have to start paying royalties for what they take from public lands, just like the oil and gas industry. The money would be used to clean up toxic, abandoned mining sites in Idaho and throughout the West.

Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, says until now, the law has given mining companies a virtual "free pass," that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

"Mining companies can not only take public resources from public lands, but they don't have to clean up after the messes that they've made."

Idaho Senator Larry Craig has said the royalties approved by the House are too high, and the environmental requirements too stringent. Those requirements would affect plans for a gold mine north of Boise that is close to a public water supply. But Danowitz says the proposed law brings mining rules into line with similar industries that profit from public land.

"None of the safeguards that have been applied to coal or gas or oil for decades apply to hardrock mining. The law here sticks out like a sore thumb."

The new law is intended for mining companies, not aimed at the amateur prospectors who mine as a hobby. So-called "hardrock" mining means mining for minerals, including gold, silver, copper and uranium.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID