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Blast From the Past Hits Capitol Today

March 27, 2008

Denver, CO – He's back! Ulysses S. Grant has arrived from the 19th century and is making a stop in Denver today. The 18th President - as portrayed by an actor - will appear on the west steps of the Capitol to make a point about the mining law he signed in 1872.

Peter Kolbenschlag is with the Pew Environment Group, which organized Grant's appearance. He says that same 19th-century law still governs hardrock mining, including uranium operations, which are beginning to boom again in Colorado. He says those new mining operations could pose a serious threat to water quality.

"Uranium is a metal that wasn't even considered at the time the 1872 mining law was enacted, and here the law is governing how that activity might proceed."

Kolbenschlag says Colorado is a very different place now than it was 136 years ago.

"In 1872 Colorado wasn't a state; there were maybe a hundred thousand people. Now we're around five million."

U.S. Senate action is expected soon on a plan to reform the mining law. The plan would require mining companies to contribute more to the cost of clean-up, pay royalties for the resources taken from the land, and put strong water pollution safeguards in place. The House has already passed a package of updates.

Opponents of the mining law reform say the proposed royalties are too high.

Eric Mack/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CO