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ID Jobs Eyed in Proposed Mining Law Update

February 2, 2009

Washington, D.C. - It's time to pay up - after more than 100 years. A bill now in Congress would reform the 1872 hardrock mining law to charge royalties for mining on public lands, similar to those that oil and gas companies pay. In addition, a proposed reclamation fee to be paid by industry could put Idahoans to work, cleaning up hundreds of abandoned mining sites.

Velma Smith, manager of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, says the reform is long overdue.

"The country is going to have to make hard decisions about where we put our money, and about trying to get people back to work. It's way past time to do this."

Mining companies complain that the royalties and other proposed fees are too high, and could lead to smaller operations and lay-offs. Smith, however, suspects the companies could avoid that by cutting back in other areas, and says that revenue generated by the legislation would result in cleaner water, more jobs and an improved quality of life.

News of the bill comes on the heels of new findings, reported by Pew, that mining subsidies combined with failure to charge royalties for taking minerals from public lands could cost taxpayers a bundle -- more than $1.5 billion dollars in the next decade, Smith warns.

"We hope that by putting these numbers out there, we wake people up to say 'Hey, wait a minute, there are some important questions of equity here, and questions about what taxpayers should be paying.'"

The report, "The Price of Inaction: $1.6 Billion," is at www.pewminingreform.org.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID