Mining reform issue important to Nevada

There's little question that the nation's mining law is antiquated and in need of reasonable reform. Our public lands belong to all, and giving mining companies cheap access to it to reap huge profits is simply not fair, nor is the legacy of that mining culture - abandoned mines that will cost billions to clean up.

But the bill that passed the House last week is too severe, at least if you trust the words of Congressman Dean Heller, who said the royalty payments the bill institutes could kill the domestic mining industry altogether and its vital role in Nevada's economy.

That's why Heller wielded as much influence as he could to amend the bill, which would impose a royalty of 4 percent of gross revenue on existing hard-rock mining operations and 8 percent of gross revenue on new operations. His amendment to reduce the 8 percent to 5 percent on net revenue was voted down, but a second that would send more of the proceeds to states for mine cleanup passed.

That's a significant accomplishment for a freshman Congressman and a good indication that Heller will not be timid on issues of importance to Nevada.

But this is one fight where true influence is likely to save the day for Nevada.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, the son of a miner, promises to wield that influence in the Senate, and his past efforts suggest he'll succeed again. This time, he promises alternative legislation that will be less burdensome to Nevada.

If he can deliver on a package of mining reforms that protect the state's economy and prevents the exploitation of public lands, Nevadans will once again have seen how influence in Washington, D.C., can pay off.

This opinion represents the views of the Nevada Appeal editorial board.


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