New group campaigns for reform of 1872 mining act

WASHINGTON: A new group called the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining launched a media and grassroots campaign on May 10 to foster public support for legislation that would reform mining laws, originally introduced in 1872, that it says cause environmental damage and don't fairly compensate taxpayers.

WASHINGTON: A new group called the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining launched a media and grassroots campaign on May 10 to foster public support for legislation that would reform mining laws, originally introduced in 1872, that it says cause environmental damage and don't fairly compensate taxpayers.

Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pew Campaign, which launched a new Web site at http://www.pewminingreform.com, is working with Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Wildlife Federation, and other nonprofits to directly lobby members of Congress as well as build grassroots support for legislation introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the US House National Resources Committee.

"We will [be] doing outreach with various constituent groups in the west - with hunters and anglers, the ranching community, and conservation and outdoor recreation groups, to educate them on the arcane nature of the law encourage them to work with their policymakers to get reform passed," said Jane Danowitz, the Pew Campaign's director. "Primarily these [efforts focus on] electronic communications as well as earned media."

Mining for gold, uranium, and other metals on US public lands has risen nearly 50% in the past years, according to group, yet existing laws allow claimholders in some cases to buy land for $5 or less an acre, and also fail to hold mining companies adequately responsible for cleanup, which has led to tainted groundwater, damaged wildlife habitats, and other adverse environmental effects.

The National Mining Association (NMA), which has over 325 members involved in all aspects of mining, did not respond to requests for comment by press time, though NMA president and CEO Kraig R. Naasz issued a statement last week saying that the "NMA is committed to playing a constructive role in the development of a fair, predictable, and efficient national minerals policy through amendments to the mining law."

A previous attempt to reform mining laws passed the House in 1993 but failed to become law. Members of the Pew-led coalition said it was not yet known which US senator might be willing to introduce similar legislation to the Senate.

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