The 1872 Mining Act — one of the most outdated and obsolete pieces of legislation on the books — still allows countless acres of America’s public lands, Wilderness areas, and pristine waters to be polluted by toxic mining every year. Believe it or not, this 148 year-old law still governs mining on public lands, including within Wilderness!
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the mining industry is America’s largest toxic polluter—40 percent of the West’s headwater streams have been polluted by mining.
Adding insult to environmental injury, the 1872 Mining Law allows mining companies — including foreign-owned companies — to use and abuse American public lands for free. That’s right! Mining companies pay no royalties whatsoever. More than 300 billion dollars-worth of minerals have been mined from our public lands, including within Wilderness, without paying taxpayers a dime.
Fortunately, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has introduced the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act (HR 2579) that would reform and replace the 1872 Mining Act. The bill prohibits new mining activity within the National Conservation System, which includes Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas. The bill also makes existing mining claims in Wilderness invalid and void after 10 years if no plan of operation has been approved.
You may not think hardrock mining is currently a threat to Wilderness, but it is. In a recent case, Wilderness Watch scored an important legal victory for the famed Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho when a judge ordered the Forest Service to conduct further analysis of proposed mining exploration and evaluate less invasive alternatives for activities in the Wilderness. In response to this ruling, in May 2018 the Forest Service released a recommendation to limit mining-related activities (including disallowing and limiting much of the drilling and trenching) at the Golden Hand Mine, which originally proposed extensive drilling, bulldozing, and road construction.
Please stand with Wilderness Watch to end hardrock mining in Wilderness! Ask your representative in Congress to co-sponsor and support the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act (HR 2579).
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