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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

Cantwell: Another Anniversary, Another Year of Outdated Mining Laws

136 Year Old Law is Outdated and Must be Reformed for the People and Environment of Today

Thursday, May 08,2008

WASHINGTON, DC – This week marks the 136th anniversary of the General Mining Law of 1872, and as another year passes with no Congressional action, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) again called for responsible policies that protect our nation's environment and communities, while also providing reasonable access for responsible mining. Cantwell intends to introduce the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2008 that would update the Mining Law of 1872 that governs mining on western public lands.
This Mining law is simply a relic of Western expansion and is a product of the days when miners carried pick axes and gold pans” said Cantwell. “The time for a new law is now.  In my home state of Washington, our public lands provide enormous economic and conservation benefits that increase the quality of life for all our citizens. If we don’t have meaningful reform, many of America’s most treasured places, including roadless areas, will continue to be claimed for mining.”
The Mining Law of 1872 contains outdated policies that allow foreign and domestic mining companies to take minerals from federal lands without paying royalties, allows public land to be purchased at less than $5 an acre, and has no environmental provisions for the protection of water supplies, wildlife, and landscapes. 
The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2008 would:
  • End patenting.  Under the 1872 Mining Law, mining interests have patented an area roughly equivalent in size to the state of Connecticut containing mineral values exceeding $245 billion;
  • Protect our nation’s special places by increasing the amount of land that is off-limits to mining exploration and development to include roadless and wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern, and lands in the Wild and Scenic River System;
  • Prevent mine proposals that would unduly degrade public lands or resources;
  • Protect national parks and national monuments from adverse effects of large-scale mining operations;
  • Allow state governments to petition to protect areas of environmental, cultural and religious significance from mining; and
  • Require industry to provide adequate financial assurances for land reclamation and water restoration
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