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Third Hearing Attempts to Seal Deal on Nevada Mining Reform

March 12, 2008

Las Vegas, NV – They don't call it the Silver State for nothing. Nevadans are hoping a Senate committee will remember the economic benefits of mining, as well as other local concerns, as it considers an update of the 1872 Hardrock Mining Law. The House already passed its version, and Nevadans are now looking to the Senate to safeguard the Silver State's economic and environmental interests.

Dan Geary is the Nevada representative for the Pew Environment Group. He says reform efforts should not prohibit hardrock mining on public lands, but should offer equal protection to natural resources.

"Mining does indeed work for Nevada, but what it also needs to do is be an important part of our future; and that includes protection of our watersheds and our habitats."

Representatives of the mining industry have said they support the idea of updating the old law, and will accept the idea of making some royalty payments, provided they can still make a fair return on their investment.

The Mining Law was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant to help prompt development of the West. Geary explains the law did its job more than a century ago; now, however, most mining is done by large corporations. He says meaningful reform will require key changes that include greater cultural and environmental sensitivity.

"In our opinion, it would end metal mining's priority status on public lands and put it on par with other public uses of land, such as recreation and timber. We think we should also allow state, local and tribal governments to petition to have specific areas of importance withdrawn from mining activities. And, with our limited water supplies, we need to ensure protection for water. Genuine reform has to incorporate environmental responsibility right into the mining law."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that mining has contaminated 40 percent of the watersheds in the West. Geary would like to see a bill that deals with reclamation of both land and watersheds.

Michael Clifford/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NV