By Derf Johnson
The gridlock that’s stalled virtually every attempt at Congressional reform of the 1872 General Mining Act has not gone away. And now, the failure to modernize the laws governing mineral extraction on public lands is taking center stage again. There is steadily increasing bipartisan pressure to ramp up mineral production in the U.S. and avoid geopolitical consequences of relying on fuel imports. This, coupled with a steady drumbeat by industry and its lobbyists that shifting to renewable energy “requires mining more metals,” has led us to a critical moment of decision and some potentially big policy reforms.
Any new mining activity must be done “correctly” so that the water and the land, and the communities dependent upon these natural amenities, are adequately protected. But without Congressional action, the options are limited, which only elevates the importance of the Department of the Interior’s recent announcement that it is forming an “interagency working group to gather information and develop recommendations for improving Federal hardrock mining regulations, laws, and permitting processes, and is inviting public comments.” Comments on how to reform mining on public lands can be submitted here: www.regulations.gov/document/DOI-2022-0003-0001.
In addition, the working group will also host a series of roundtables for different stakeholder groups. The dates are yet to be announced, but we highly encourage your comments and participation when the roundtables happen. This may be a once-in-a-generation chance to achieve some significant reforms, and so the working group needs to hear from you!
This article was published in the June 2022 issue of Down To Earth.