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Congress Looks at How Gold Mining Will “Pan” Out for Idaho

January 24, 2008

Boise, ID – Congress is taking a look at how Idaho's new "gold rush" will pan out. At issue, is whether the 1872 law that guides mining on public land needs to be updated.

With gold prices setting a new record high in the U.S. this past week, Jane Danowitz with the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining says it's time to rethink a law that is more than a century old. The proposed updates being considered in a U.S. Senate Committee hearing today include charging royalties on the minerals extracted, much like the oil and gas industry pays, instead of letting resources go for free.

"This is a law that is outdated, outmoded and not relevant to the current mining practices of the day."

Mining companies would also have to help more on cleanup costs. The Idaho Department of Lands estimates Idaho is $50 million behind on cleaning up abandoned mine sites.

Opponents of changing the mining law argue the proposed royalties are too high, but Danowitz believes they're in line with what other industries pay when taking resources off public land.

"These are highly profitable industries which are, in many cases, foreign-owned, and yet for decades they've been able to take gold and other precious minerals off of U.S. public land virtually for free."

A gold mine proposed at the headwaters of the Boise River has many locals worried about water contamination; the Boise City Council is already on record as opposing the project because of that risk. More information on Idaho mines is available online at www.bettermines.org.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID