Request For Speakers - 1872 Mining Law Reform
Aang! Or, greetings in Aleut to you from Alaska. I am an Aleut, here in Alaska, and I am looking for information on speakers pertaining to a subject relative to my work here in Anchorage.
I work for the Renewable Resources Coalition, a non-profit organization formed to fight the proposed pebble mine. Pebble Mine would be North America’s, (if not the worlds’) largest open pit mine. The partnership behind this mine intends to mine copper, molybdenum, and gold at the headwaters of the largest Salmon fishery on the planet. Obviously many of us are opposed to this disaster, and accordingly, I am looking for speakers.
We have a pool of speakers up here already, but what I am looking for is an outside Native American speaker that can attest to the damage these large scale mines create.
There is a conference that will be taking place here in March that will be attended strictly by Alaska Tribal organizations, and we are hoping that the possibility of bringing in another Native person would help these people understand the dangers we face. Please let me know if you have any suggestions, and thank you for your time.
Renewable Resource Coalition
500 L St. Suite 502
Anchorage, AK 99501
The Pebble Mine project is a controversial proposal by Northern Dynasty Minerals to build one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world, in southwest Alaska, near Lake Iliamna. Northern Dynasty has not yet applied for permits, but their current proposal involves both a large open pit and an underground mine, as well as removal of the water from the headwaters of Upper Talarik Creek and the Koktuli River ( important fish habitats).
The site sits at the headwaters of two major Bristol Bay drainages ( Nushagak and Kvichak), and potentially poses a large threat to the region's water and salmon. This proposal has become a major political issue in Alaska, pitting pro-mining forces against local native villages and commercial and sport fishermen.
From: Google – Erin McKittrick and Brentwood Higma
The Green Zone, AP - Five of the nations leading jewelers have sworn off gold that could someday come from the Pebble Mine, a huge deposit near the world's most productive salmon stream.
The jewelers including Tiffany& Co, Ben Bridge Jewelers and Helzberg Diamonds have pledged not to knowingly sell jewelry made from gold that might be extracted from the proposed mine near the Bristol watershed in southwest Alaska.
The other two jewelers making the pledge are Fortunoff and Leber Jewelers.
1872 Mining Law Reform A Bottomless Pit of Issues
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK - The Mining Law of 1872, signed into existence 135 years ago by President Ulysses Grant, is either “the most outdated natural resource law in the nation” and sadly in need of overhaul, or working just fine and any attempt at reform would be “unnecessary, duplicative and unreasonable.
"The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., heard testimony recently from a number of experts on the issue as well as representatives of various public interest groups.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive bill in November to reform the mining law and Bingaman and Vice Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., are hopeful the Senate and House can craft a bipartisan measure that will be signed into law.
Under the mining law billions of dollars of hardrock minerals can be mined from federal lands without the payment of royalty, Bingaman said. “General land management and environmental laws apply, but there are no specific statutory provisions under the mining law setting surface management or environmental standards.”
Domenici views the effort as “a complex issue that will require compromise and a great deal of hard work,” nevertheless, he is optimistic of finding a more balanced approach that will “provide a fair return to taxpayers for the use of federal resources while ensuring that America has a robust mining industry.”
Hardrock mining in New Mexico primarily involves copper and molybdenum production, with mining claims mostly in Cibola, Grant, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Sierra and Taos counties. A number of companies have plans to restart uranium mining in Cibola and McKinley counties, some on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, and some on lands the Navajo Nation claims is part of Navajo Indian Country.
During the recent Senate committee hearing, Mike Dombeck, former chief of the Forest Service and director of the BLM, presented testimony on behalf of Trout Unlimited, saying that mining is a legitimate use of public lands, but there are few laws more in need of an overhaul than the 1872 Mining Law.
"Under the 1872 law, mining takes precedence over all other public land uses, including hunting and fishing. The Secretary of the Interior must sell public land to mining companies, often foreign-owned, for as little as $2.50 per acre,” with mining companies paying no royalties for hard rock minerals, he said.
'The price of uranium, gold and other heavy metals continues to drive companies to stake claims across the West. Once claimed, it is nearly impossible to prohibit mining under the current framework of the 1872 Mining Law, no matter how serious the impacts might be.”
Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency scientists have determined that the national forests alone provide drinking water to more than 60 million people in 33 states.
Henri Bisson, deputy director of the BLM, said other state and federal laws play a critical role in ensuring that hardrock mining operations on public lands occur in an environmentally sound manner. Those include the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Wilderness Act, and National Historic Preservation Act
"Millions of acres of federal land have been withdrawn from mineral entry through either statute or policy,” he said. “We believe that the existing statutes and related regulations provide sufficient authority to regulate mining operations when properly monitored and enforced by state and federal regulatory agencies.”
Bisson acknowledged that historic mining practices have had adverse consequences but said current regulations are designed to avoid a recurrence of that history. Abandoned Mine Lands, a legacy of past practices, are addressed through an active program that seeks to mitigate hazards present at abandoned mines, restore watersheds, and protect public health and safety, recreation, fish and wildlife.
Between 2000 and 2007, the BLM inventoried 5,500 sites and remediated physical safety hazards at more than 3,000 sites. The BLM also restored water quality at more than 280 sites through 2003, Bisson said.
William Cobb of Freeport McMoran Mining Co., who testified on behalf of the National Mining Association, said access to federal lands for mineral exploration and development is critical to maintain a strong domestic mining industry.
"Federal lands account for as much as 86 percent of the land area in certain Western states. These same states, rich in minerals, account for 75 percent of our nation’s metals production and will continue to provide a large share of the future metals and hardrock minerals produced in this country,” Cobb said.
"With the existing tools available to protect special resources and environmentally sensitive areas, there is no need to provide additional federal authority to address where mining claims should be denied on federal lands due to environmental or other concerns.
"In particular, it is not necessary to give the Secretary of Interior the right to stop a mining project when all environmental and other legal requirements are met,” he said. “Mining projects will not be able to attract investments if there is no certainty that the project can obtain approval even when the operator complies with all relevant laws and regulations.”
Unlike the oil and gas industries, companies that mine for gold, silver, copper, uranium and other precious metals do not have to pay a fee when operating on federal land, “essentially allowing these valuable minerals to be given away for free,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
"The 1872 law also saddles taxpayers with the hefty clean-up costs of the toxic aftermath of mining operations. Not only do American taxpayers underwrite the profits, but they are also forced to pay for the damages left behind.”
In Crested Butte, Colo., where land prices range as high as $1 million per acre, the federal government sold 155 acres to the Phelps Dodge mining company for approximately $790, Alexander said, despite a company estimate that the land could produce up to $158 million in after-tax profits over 11 years.
"In some cases, it appears that mining patents have been little more than a ruse for developers to get their hands on valuable federal property before flipping it for other, more lucrative uses,” he said, adding that in 1983, the Forest Service sold 160 acres near the Keystone, Colo., ski resort for $400. “Six years later the land sold for $1 million.”
Mayor Alan Bernholtz of Crested Butte, a small community in western Colorado surrounded by federal land, said watershed protection must take precedence over industrial mining development.
"Crested Butte has a rich mining history and is proud of its heritage,” he said, but times have changed and now skiing, fishing, hiking and mountain-biking are the lifebloods of the economy. However, a large-scale molybdenum mining project proposed on Forest Service lands just one mile outside the town's boundary” the ‘Lucky Jack Project’ -- is proposed in the watershed where the town obtains its domestic water.
"Based on our initial understanding of the Lucky Jack Project, the mine will dump hundreds of thousands of mine wastes and mine tailings into Crested Butte's watershed, disturb thousands of acres of prime wildlife habitat, eliminate critical recreational areas from public use and essentially turn pristine National Forest lands outside of our town 'all of which are surrounded by federally designated wilderness' into a permanent industrial dump site,” Bernholtz said.
"Under the federal government's interpretation of the mining law, the Forest Service is powerless to deny the Lucky Jack Project. At best, the Forest Service can only 'minimize adverse impacts,' but cannot deny the proposed project to protect public resources and local interests,” he said.
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