Nationwide Coalition to Congress: Reject Hidden Mining Approvals in COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Toxic polluters cynically attempting to secure favors in relief package


Phil LaRue, Earthjustice, (202) 797-4317

As mining companies responsible for some of the most toxic and persistent pollution in the country seek to take advantage of the process of drafting necessary COVID-19 relief legislation to secure favors for their industry, a broad cross-section of environmental experts, organizations representing mining-impacted communities, and organizations with millions of members across the country are calling for Congress to hold the line.

In a letter to Congressional leadership released Tuesday, the individuals and organizations said that hardrock mining is “considered to be the most toxic” industry in the United States, and urged lawmakers not to let the mining industry bury handouts in a COVID-19 relief package.

“It’s unconscionable that the mining industry is taking advantage of a respiratory pandemic to open the door to more of its toxic pollution,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative at Earthjustice. “We need every federal lawmaker focused on frontline healthcare workers, their families, and the communities hardest hit by COVID-19, not allowing more pollution that takes thousands of years to clean. If our leaders want to revisit mining policy at another time, they should look at the House’s approach in the Hardrock Mining Reform Act.” 

“The answer to any real or imagined critical minerals concerns, is not to shortcut measures intended to protect public health, especially not in the middle of a public health crisis,” said Amber Reimondo, energy program director for the Grand Canyon Trust. “If lawmakers want to get serious about addressing what they view as obstacles to mining, the first order of business should not be to further strangle public input, it should be to reform the antiquated 1872 Mining Law such that the public can actually have a say in where hardrock mining is and is not appropriate and mining-impacted communities are truly heard and taken care of.”

“The American Mineral Security Act doesn’t help people suffering from the pandemic nor its consequences, and it has no business in a relief package,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director at Earthworks. “We need to strengthen our outdated mining laws, not weaken already flimsy community and taxpayer protections. This is simply another mining industry attempt to eviscerate oversight of their industry, the nation’s largest toxic polluter.”

“This provision puts the interests of the mining industry over the health and wellbeing of people and communities, which is spectacularly inappropriate to include as part of a COVID-19 response package,” says America Fitzpatrick, Senior Representative at The Wilderness Society. “We urge Congress to prioritize our health, protect communities and cultural resources, and safeguard our air and water, by rejecting this provision, which would limit environmental review and public input on hardrock mining, the most toxic industry in the U.S.”

Read the letter.

Toxic waste stains water yellow-orange near abandoned mines in Colorado.
Toxic waste stains water yellow-orange near abandoned mines in Colorado. (supitchamcsdam / Getty)

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