The Interior Department recently released a solicitor’s opinion outlining the various ways mining companies can legally store mine waste on public lands. The guidance is consistent with a previous court ruling in the Rosemont Copper Mine case that held that mining companies cannot dump waste on public lands that do not have a legitimate mineral claim.
“The Interior Department’s solicitor’s opinion relied on over 100 years of federal court precedent — including recent decisions — and correctly held that mining claimants do not have valid rights to use public land for massive waste disposal and other facilities without showing that the lands contain valuable minerals,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley. “The opinion detailed that mining companies have numerous options for approving these facilities, such as receiving a special use permit, land exchange, or other recognized means available to all other users of public land. Current bills in Congress put forth by the industry and its supporters that would grant mining companies special privileges along with statutory rights to unlimited lands for waste dumps at the expense of all other public users are unnecessary, unwarranted, and unwise giveaways to the industry.”
Earlier this month, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) introduced the Mining Regulatory Clarity Act that would reverse the Rosemont decision and make it easier for mining companies to stake a claim on public lands regardless of the existence of a legitimate mining claim.
“While we share the clean energy goals of the Senator and understand we cannot avoid all mining in our energy transition, the bill takes us in the opposite direction we should be moving,” continued Miller-McFeeley. “This bill in its current form would give mining companies a free pass to occupy our public lands without a legitimate mineral claim and lock out other uses — including for recreation, conservation, clean energy, and cultural purposes. We don’t have to make the false choice between mineral mining and protecting communities, the environment, and sacred sites. We can do both, and that begins with updating our 150-year-old mining law to meet this moment and creating a sustainable supply chain that recycles, reuses, and extends the lives of transition minerals.”