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Panel consisting of:
Karen Galatz, vice president, corporate and community affairs, First
Richard K. Sager, Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy, Salt Lake
Harry M. Lane, assistant general counsel, Hecla Mining Company,
Jim Collord, mine operations superintendent, Jerritt Canyon Mine,
Lynn A. Pirozzoli, vice president, environmental and government
Panel consisting of:
John P. Connor, region counsel, Marathon Oil Company.
Robert A. Sanregret, executive director, National Association of
Jerry Walker, executive director, Gypsum Association, Washington,
TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 1991
Additional material submitted for the hearing record:
Statements submitted by Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich on behalf
Statement of Margaretha Krucker, Mojave, California..
Report prepared for Public Resource Associates: "Impediments to Miner-
Statement of William L. Wilson, independent mining consultant, Grand
Statement of Minerals Exploration Coalition, Lakewood, Colorado
MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT
ACT OF 1991
TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 1991
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in room 1324, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Nick J. Rahall (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. RAHALL. The Subcommittee on Mining and Natural Resources will come to order, please.
The subcommittee is meeting today to continue the hearings on H.R. 918, the Mineral Exploration and Development Act of 1991. This is a bill to reform the Mining Law of 1872.
We have been proceeding in an extremely prudent and deliberative fashion on this matter. During June 1987, as many will recall, the current round of congressional debate on the reform of the Mining Law of 1872 commenced with an oversight hearing conducted by this subcommittee. Subsequently, over the course of the 101st Congress, this subcommittee held a number of hearings on topics that are relevant to the pending legislation.
Meanwhile, at my request, the U.S. General Accounting Office has completed four reports on hardrock mining issues, and a fifth report on cyanide leaching should be ready for release to the public in the very near future.
So far this year the subcommittee has heard testimony from 166 witnesses at four field hearings and has received countless other written submissions for the record. Over the course of today's hearing and Thursday's continuation, we will hear from an additional 56 witnesses for a total of 222 presentations on the legislation pending before this subcommittee. I have sat and listened to each and every one of them.
I have also made numerous statements on why I see the need to reform the Mining Law of 1872 and I will not, of course, belabor the point at this time. Suffice it to say that the record will reflect the full scope and effort being made by the subcommittee to obtain public input in this matter.
However, before recognizing the distinguished Republican member of the subcommittee, I would make note of a couple items.
First, I want to express my sincere appreciation and respect to the gentlelady from Nevada for her diligence, her due diligence on this issue. Mrs. Vucanovich has not only attended every one of the
field hearings, each of which ran for approximately 6 to 7 hours, but has showed a great deal of courage during our descent down the ladder into Hugh Engels mine near Hawthorne, Nevada. I must say I was quite impressed.
I would also like to recognize the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Jontz, for taking time to participate in a number of our field hearings, including Santa Fe and Fairbanks. As the ranking geologist on the subcommittee, his input has been very helpful on this issue.
In addition, I would like to thank one of our witnesses today, the BLM Director, Cy Jamison, and the Forest Service for all of their assistance with transportation during our field inspections in Nevada and in Alaska.
And finally, I guess I will have to state a couple of personal notes. I feel a bit out of sorts in conducting this hearing here today and in walking over here from my office in the Rayburn Building because there was no rally outside the building by people from the West.
Barbara says she could have worn a T-shirt. [Laughter.]
But frankly, I rather enjoyed wading through some of the crowds that we had in the field hearings. I might add all of the protests were in a dignified and respectful manner, nothing personal or nothing that was out of hand. Fairbanks, in particular, was espe cially exciting as there were people covering all of the doors to make sure that I did not slip away after the hearing without the benefit of reviewing what was written on their placards that they were carrying.
But I really got a little concerned, I might add, when I walked out of the building, I thought I was walking out of the door unnoticed and somebody yelled, "There he is. Let's get him." [Laughter.]
But it should be noted that in conjunction with the hearing, these good folks in Alaska held their first ever Alaska Mining Festival. And, to my surprise, last week in the mail I received a letter from the festival coordinator who wrote that since I was instrumental in the founding of their mining festivals they would like me to return next year to serve as master of ceremonies or as parade master, whichever I choose. So I am going to give this kind invitation due consideration, provided however that the guy who was out at the hearing and yelled "There he is, go get him" is not on the program also. [Laughter.]
I do want to express my appreciation to everybody that has helped on these field hearings: the witnesses, to my staff, in par ticular Mr. Zoia and all of his staff, the ranking minority's staff, and to everybody that has helped make these hearings the valuable forum that they were.
[Opening statement of Mr. Rahall follows:]
Opening Remarks of Chairman Nick J. Rahall, II
"Mineral Exploration and Development Act of 1991"
The Subcommittee on Mining and Natural Resources is meeting today for the purpose of continuing its hearings on H.R. 918, the "Mineral Exploration and Development Act of 1991." This is a bill to reform the Mining Law of 1872.
We have been proceeding in an extremely prudent and deliberative fashion on this matter. During June of 1987, the current round of congressional debate on the reform of the Mining Law of 1872 commenced with an oversight hearing conducted by this Subcommittee. Subsequently, over the course of the 101st Congress, this Subcommittee held a number of hearings on such matters as mine reclamation and bonding requirements, abandoned mine land issues, mining claims on Stock Raising Homestead Act lands, uncommon varieties, the regulation of hardrock mining wastes, and on legislation to reform the Mining Law. In addition, oil shale claims have been the subject of numerous Subcommittee hearings over the years.
Meanwhile, at my request, the U.S. General Accounting Office has completed four reports on hardrock mining issues relating to abandoned hardrock mine lands, non-mining use of patented claims, non-mining use of unpatented claims, and on the Oregon Dunes situation. A fifth report, on cyanide leaching, should be ready for release to the public in the very near future.
So far this year the Subcommittee has heard testimony from 166 witnesses at four field hearings, and has received countless other written submissions for the record. Over the course of today's hearing, and Thursday's continuation, we will hear from an additional 56 witnesses for a total of 222 presentations on the legislation pending before this Subcommittee. I have sat and listened to each and every one of them.
I have made numerous statements on why I see the need to reform the Mining Law of 1872 and will not belabor the point at this time. Suffice it to say that the record will reflect the full scope of effort being made by the Subcommittee to obtain public input in this matter.
Mr. RAHALL. I now recognize the gentlelady from Nevada for any opening comments she wishes to make.
Mrs. VUCANOVICH. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Because of the lengthy list of witnesses, I will be fairly brief in my opening remarks.
Today we begin the first of two final days of hearings on the issue of reforming the Mining Law of 1872. We have together listened to over 160 witnesses at our subcommittee's field hearings, and I believe that they provided the subcommittee with invaluable insights. Our Constitution guarantees citizens the right to petition their government, but, unfortunately, the guarantee does not include a plane ticket and a hotel room. So field hearings provide an opportunity for those less able to afford the trip to Washington an opportunity to be heard. And hear them we did, as the chairman. has said, for more than 25 hours, plus a few trips to mines.
Mr. Chairman, I would now want to thank you for your patience in listening to so many miners in the West and Alaska, most of whom wanted to scrap your bill and who told you so. Despite the protest signs, though, you accepted the criticism of H.R. 918 gracefully, be it from the more radical reformers or the advocates of the status quo. Many chairmen may have tried to hold a Washington, DC hearing only without going to the hinterlands knowing the reception you were likely to face. I appreciate your willingness to do so, Mr. Chairman, and I only wish you could have attended the Helena, Montana function as well to hear the small miners of the Northwest with Congressman Marlenee and myself.
I, too, held a Town Hall meeting in Elko, Nevada, for those constituents of mine who were unable to testify at our Reno hearing. About a dozen residents of northeast Nevada submitted written statements to me giving comments on H.R. 918, and I ask now that they be made part of the record for this hearing, Mr. Chairman. Mr. RAHALL. Without objection, they will be. [Submissions appear in appendix.]
Mrs. VUCANOVICH. Thank you. And I have them right here. As you might surmise, these are heartfelt comments from people who will be directly affected by what we in Congress choose to do on this issue. They are not happy that a law that defines a way of life for them is cavalierly dismissed as anticipated. A frontier law that has outlived its usefulness, a land scam of immense proportions, and other rash statements repeated by the media without resort to checking the validity of the arguments set forth in the GAO report of 1989 which serves as the basis for these rehashed stories. That is pretty poor journalism in my view. Don't bother to check the facts, just repeat the GAO's conclusions and they become fact. It is much less troublesome than attempting to ascertain the truth and how the Mining Law works day to day in the West to provide a living for honest, hardworking citizens.
Mr. Chairman, I believe you when you say that you support the continuation of hardrock mining in the West. While we may disagree on how to achieve that end, I do thank you for joining with me to try to defeat the proposal to substitute a $100 per claim annual holding fee for the current assessment work requirements of the Mining Law. Having our miners send their development funds to Washington is no way to encourage exploration for and