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Congress Looks at “Royal Treatment” for MT Mining

February 20, 2008

Helena, MT – Congress is taking a hard look at hard-rock mining in Montana and throughout the West. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to draft a bill soon that will require companies mining gold or uranium to pay royalties on what they remove from the earth, just as oil, gas and coal companies must do. The U.S. House already has passed similar legislation, HR 2262, the "Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act." A new public education campaign is alerting Montanans about their opportunities to weigh in on the issue.

The law governing hard-rock mining is 135 years old. Jane Danowitz with the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining says the original mining law of 1872 made sense at the time, but times definitely have changed.

"When the law was passed, it was lone prospectors with pack mules. Today, it's a modern mining industry that is recording a record profit."

Montana has been one of the states hardest hit by pollution from thousands of abandoned mines, Danowitz says. The new legislation would charge royalties on what companies take from public land and use some of that money to help pay for pollution clean up.

"It's important to remember that these international corporations are still allowed to take precious resources from U.S. public land without compensating taxpayers."

Opponents of the legislation say the royalties are too high. Mining reform supporters disagree, saying they would be similar to what coal, gas and oil companies pay now. HR2262 includes royalties.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MT