WASHINGTON — Tribal, conservation and community groups representing millions of people today filed formal comments with federal agencies calling for more protective rules and legislation on hard rock mining, including requiring recycling minerals to protect people and the environment.
Today’s comments follow a request for public input from the Federal Interagency Mining Reform Task Force, which is responsible for recommending updates to federal mining laws and policies and creating a chain more sustainable sourcing for all products containing minerals. The organizations have also called on the Home Office to accede to a petition filed in September to improve and modernize oversight of hard rock mining on public lands.
“Times have changed since the General Mining Act of 1872,” said Chairman Terry Rambler of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. “At that time, nobody considered the impacts of mines on water, air, the environment or even people. Today water is scarce and we know that extracting toxins from the air and water causes cancer and generally devastates all living creatures. Some mines have destroyed sacred and historic sites. Yet it is understandable that we also need mines for the resources they produce and for the global economy. For these reasons, mining must be reformed to be responsible and sustainable. The interagency working group on mining reform is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to further consultations during the rulemaking process.
Mining reform has taken on new urgency as Congress considers fossil fuel expansion legislation that would also favor mining interests proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) in exchange for his support of the Mining Act. reduction in inflation. According to a leaked plan, the bill would reduce community input into the permitting process for mining projects and fossil fuel infrastructure. Accelerating new mining projects threaten to pollute drought-stricken waters with toxic runoff.
“Our sacred places deserve more respect than a 150-year-old broken mining law that does nothing to prevent their destruction,” said Tohono O’odham Nation President Ned Norris, Jr. is being battled to preserve our history and culture from the Rosemont Mine and other threats for many years The interagency working group can and should, at a minimum, recommend the adoption of hard rock mining regulations which require the free, prior and informed consent of the affected tribal communities to move forward.
The groups recommended that the Interior improve enforcement of existing mining laws and that the task force help implement President Biden’s promise to address historic injustices resulting from mining operations.
“The mining industry has been allowed to trample on public lands and communities for generations,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These common-sense changes are necessary to protect people and the environment as we bring a just transition to renewable energy.”
Suggestions from the groups include:
- Respect the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and require their consent for any government action in the mineral supply chain that may affect their community, lands or cultural resources.
- Protect ancestral public and indigenous peoples’ lands against damage to significant historical, cultural, biodiverse or other environmental resources.
- Require the Bureau of Land Management to verify mineral rights.
- Create a rental regime for hard rock minerals, as proposed in the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act.
- Encourage a circular mineral economy – recycling and reuse – to help meet demand in the clean energy supply chain.
“We face an existential climate crisis and must act quickly to convert our infrastructure to support low-carbon energy, but mining this century must not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Aaron Mintzes. , Senior Policy Advisor at Earthworks. “Better mining rules can help a more equitable transition to clean energy in a way that has tangible benefits for all communities impacted by mining and leaves a livable planet for future generations.”
The Home Office launched the task force in February to review mining laws, regulations and permits. The agency will consider public comments and is expected to issue recommendations, including potential legislation, later this year.
“We can find ways to electrify our cars, trucks and buses without replicating the toxic burdens that our current energy system imposes on Indigenous communities and others directly impacted by industrial extraction and processing,” Blaine said. Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative at Earthjustice. “In fact, there is an obvious starting point: reforming US law and regulations that have allowed the mining industry to pollute freely for a century and a half.”
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the metal mining industry is the largest source of toxic waste in the United States, and hard rock mining has contaminated approximately 40% of western watersheds. Unlike the oil, gas and coal industries, metal mining companies pay nothing to extract state-owned minerals from public lands in the western United States and contiguous Alaska.
The Department of the Interior oversees regulations governing compliance with the Federal Mining Act and other public land laws.