Rep. Gibbons sees opportunity for mining law reform
December 11, 2004
ELKO – Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., says the time is right for significant reform of federal mining laws, including changes in demands for reclamation.
“We need to do it now, when there is a narrow window of opportunity,” he said at the Northwest Mining Association’s annual convention in Spokane, Wash.
The window is open because there is an “administration that’s supportive of mining and our effort to accomplish structural changes in the mining law,” he told the Elko Daily Free Press in an interview at last week’s meeting.
“We can’t nickel and dime it,” he said.
Gibbons wants the law to include changes to allow mines in closure to leave the infrastructure behind for another use, rather than the entire site be cleared and reclaimed as now required.
“We’ve got to do something to benefit communities long term. That’s why I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Gibbons, vice chairman of the House Resources Committee.
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He also wants the law to include a “fee” that would be fair and across-the-board, including those who mine on public lands as well as private land. Spreading the fee out to all those who mine should help keep the fee low, Gibbons said.
The reforms could even include coal, which is now separate from hardrock mining, he said. “We’re incorporating everybody.”
John Shelk, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the National Mining Association, said the NMA supports Gibbons in his efforts to get mining law reform within the next 18 months to two years. He said the window of opportunity is “not by accident,” but as the result of efforts by the mining industry in the recent election.
Shelk said the inclusion of a provision in the omnibus funding bill Congress recently passed that delays the increase in mining claim fees for a year while the U.S. Bureau of Land Management comes up with a tracking system for permits is a victory for the industry.
BLM raised the fee from $100 per claim to $125, but the omnibus funding bill provision requires the tracking system first.
“They don’t have a tracking system,” Shelk said.
Permitting delays are a key reason mining companies are looking elsewhere in the word for minerals and developing mines overseas, Gibbons said.
Only 8 percent of exploration spending is in this country, compared with 20 percent in 1993.
Gibbons hasn’t settled yet on a proposed fee level or fee structure. He said he wants input on all aspects before a bill to reform the 1872 Mining Law is put together.
“I’m talking to people here and mining association representatives to deal with industry concerns, so we can address all the problems and all the hoops. We also want to make sure the law doesn’t unwind environmental standards,” he said.
“We want to make sure it is fair to the public and to companies, and we need to get it done in the next 18 to 24 months,” Gibbons said.
A number of bills to reform the law have failed over the years, because the mining industry and environmentalists were so far apart on the issues.
With the support of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Gibbons has established a mining law technical committee to advise him on mining law reform.
Information from: Elko Daily Free Press, http://www.elkodaily.com