Lawmakers shelve bill making Nevada mining companies pay up
Two legislators have withdrawn their plan to stop letting some Nevada mining companies guarantee payment of land reclamation costs by simply promising they’re good for the money.
Assembly members Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, and Jason Geddes, R-Reno, said Wednesday they’ll work with mining between now and the 2005 Legislature on a new proposal.
Their AB321 had been sent to an Assembly Natural Resources subcommittee last week, with the panel chairman, Tom Collins, D-North Las Vegas, saying it wouldn’t pass without major amendments.
Several other lawmakers also criticized AB321, which would have brought Nevada into line with federal policy on mine reclamation bonding.
The Interior Department did away with guarantees on federal land in 2001, and now requires companies to post bonds to cover projected mine cleanup costs, which can be hundreds of millions of dollars.
Alaska and Nevada, the third largest producer of gold in the world behind South Africa and Australia, are the only states that still accept some form of guarantees in lieu of bonds.
Leslie said difficulties in agreeing on compromise language doomed the bill, but she and Geddes have a commitment from the Nevada Mining Association to work on a solution that could be considered in 2005.
“My goal continues to be to protect taxpayers by ensuring that they are not stuck with a multi-million-dollar obligation if a mine should go bankrupt,” she said.
State regulators say the current system is working. They note that under current strict requirements only three major mining companies — Barrick Gold, Glamis Gold and Newmont Mining — are now using guarantees.
Should they all fail, Nevada taxpayers would be responsible for as much as $237 million in mine reclamation expenses.
Under the bill, the corporate guarantee system would have been phased out over five years. Geddes said that by 2008 the largest mining companies would be paying about $1.3 million a year.