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Report Puts Billion Dollar Price Tag on Mining Law "Inaction"

January 28, 2009

Las Vegas, NV – It's hardly news to people in Nevada that the mining industry is doing business under a very old set of rules - but now there is a billion dollar price tag being placed on that state of affairs. Velma Smith is manager of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, which just released a report on the cost of mining subsidies to taxpayers. She says the mining law needs to be updated, because the nation can't afford to ignore a $1.6 billion stream of untapped revenues over the next 10 years.

"Certainly now that the country is going to have to make hard decisions about spending, you know where we put our money, and trying to get people back to work — it's just way past time to do this. "

On Tuesday a measure to update the 1872 Hardrock Mining law and create royalties for the industry was introduced in the U.S. House. Mining companies agree that some royalty payments would be fair, but they oppose other fees and loss of industry tax breaks in the proposal. The measure is called the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009

Smith says right now taxpayers are losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in fees that other industries normally pay for cleanup. She says coal companies pay to help clean up abandoned mines, and the laws need to be changed so that other kinds of mining companies pay those costs as well.

"There are so many sites where we can use these funds to go in and do cleanup and reclamation, and treating water; we can employ people cleaning up from the past."

The mining industry opposes payment of reclamation fees. An identical bill to update the mining law passed by a wide margin in the House last year, but the Senate did not take up the measure. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said he is interested in addressing the mining reform issue.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV