Fifty environmental, Indigenous, and justice organizations sent a letter to House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman, Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva, and the members of the committee urging for strong mining reforms to protect people and special places from the environmental and health impacts of poorly regulated mining. This comes as the committee holds its first legislative hearing, “Unleashing America’s Energy and Mineral Potential,” on a series of proposals to streamline the permitting of fossil fuel projects and mines, cut communities and science out of decision making, and undermine important environmental protections that protect public health.
“Expanding mineral activities on federal public lands without modernizing our mining laws could threaten some of our nation’s most treasured areas,” wrote the groups. “Previous mine permitting proposals have sought to scale back protections for millions of acres of tribal sacred sites, culturally significant places, and iconic natural places. While mining is not permitted within the boundaries of National Parks, mining activities pollute the air and water that crosses the boundaries of protected lands. Insufficiently regulated mining in the name of clean energy development promotes a false choice by risking key lands that we need to conserve for our own health and wellbeing.”
Current mining operations are governed by the Hardrock Mining Law of 1872, and Congress has not updated the legislation for over 150 years.
“Mining companies have exploited the climate crisis to call for unfettered access to our public lands and expand dirty mining operations that remain governed by antiquated laws and regulations,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley. “We can’t avoid all mining, and any mining that happens must proceed in the most sustainable way possible. Our current laws and regulations fail to meet this moment, and Congress must address this shortfall and ensure that iconic environmental treasures, Indigenous sacred sites, and the clean air and clean water of mining-impacted communities are not sacrificed in the process.”
“Necessary changes include those considered last Congress in the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act of 2022,” the groups continued. “Converting to a leasing system for hardrock minerals — just like the one that oil and gas companies use today — would help provide certainty to the permitting process and result in more timely and socially acceptable decisions. We respectfully urge Members of the House Natural Resources Committee to oppose efforts that would exacerbate deficiencies in the existing mining law and result in an unnecessary increase in mining on federal public lands and puts at risk irreplaceable protected lands, special places, tribal sacred sites, wildlife, and culturally significant sites in the guise of a clean energy transition.”