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Monday was Memorial Day. More than 100,000 people in the five major U.S. territories are military veterans, but can't vote for commander-in-chief. Plus, Puerto Rico has a statehood referendum this November.

NM Leaders Call on Congress to Bring Mining Laws Out of the 'Wild West'

January 10, 2008

Albuquerque, NM - It's time to bring our mining laws out of the 'Wild West' and into the 21st century. That's what a group of New Mexico officials and conservation groups are saying today in Albuquerque. Leaders from state, county and tribal governments are calling for reform of the federal hard rock mining law that's been in place since 1872, when Ulysses S. Grant was President. Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta says the law dates back to a time when no one worried about clean-up or environmental impact.

"We're dealing with a seriously antiquated law which leaves taxpayers paying for the clean-up. It's a financial burden on everybody in order for a few to make a profit."

Archuleta is hopeful that Senators Bingaman and Domenici will take the lead this year in updating the mining laws. Last year, a bill passed the House of Representatives, and Archuleta says the Senate now has a chance to pick up where the House bill left off. Both New Mexico senators head the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which will hold a hearing on the subject later this month.

Kent Salazar, president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, believes everyone has a stake in reforming the 19th century law.

"Hopefully we can hammer out a genuine reform bill that will provide the industry with what they need as well as protect the public and the environment."

Salazar says updating the law is also crucial to protecting the health of New Mexicans, given the boom in uranium mining and the industry's checkered past in the Land of Enchantment.

Eric Mack/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NM