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from BLM operations in Nevada of the kinds of problems that we think need to be better addressed.

Nearly every BLM district in Nevada has a substantial mining industry, but the interpretation of BLM's regulations there vary widely. Our Nevada activists have found that lack of consistency between BLM districts is a major reason that the 1872 Mining Law reform legislation must have clear and specific national reclamation standards. The BLM is basically run there on a district level, with little oversight either by the site or by the national office. Reclamation requirements should be included up front as part of the plan of operations. The bill should link reclamation with operation planning, ensuring that reclamation is planned at the outset.

In the Ely District, the BLM granted a permit to the USMX Casino Mine with essentially no reclamation plan in the environmental assessment. In the Battle Mountain District the environmental assessment of the major expansion of the Copper Canyon Copper Basin gold mine south of Battle Mountain had a completely inadequate reclamation plan. There was no provision for reclaiming many miles of roads there. The revegetation standards in the plan even included a suggestion that annual plans would be acceptable.

These inconsistencies between districts of the BLM there have been made apparent by Nevada's State Legislature's action with their new reclamation law that now requires more uniform standards. But twice during the 1991 session of the legislature the mining industry attempted to remove the authority of the State of Nevada over reclamation on mining of BLM lands. That is a testa. ment to the leniency of BLM's regulations that industry's defenders in the legislature wanted the State to have no role at all.

Though there is no requirement in the bill that reclamation standards be incorporated into the plans of operations, there are reclamation standards spelled out in some detail there, and we commend you for including items such as prevention of acid mine drainage or other contamination of surface waters in particular to prevent contamination of ground water.

We also believe that the reclamation standard of the bill should stipulate that mine lands be recontoured to their original contour approximately. We believe that diligence requirements should be completely abolished and replaced with a higher fee. We believe that the bill should completely eliminate ground staking of claims, which merely cause litter of the landscape. The claim should be filed in computers or file cabinets, not on the ground. We believe the bill should also call for a report to Congress on how it is being implemented, so that Congress can track the effectiveness of the new law for at least the first several years after enactment.

We also commend Congressman DeFazio for introducing a comprehensive reform bill, and we will want to work continuously with the subcommittee as it continues to work on this bill. We look forward to doing that.

Thank you.
(Prepared statement of Mr. McCloskey follows:}

Statement of Michael McCloskey

Chairman of the Sierra Club

Mr Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee,

I am Michael McCloskey, Chairman of the Sierra Club. We are a national, grassroots environmental organization that counts more than 600,000 members, with groups and chapters in every state. Since our founding in 1892, our members have been dedicated to the protection of our public lands from mining abuses. I am pleased to testify today on behalf of those members regarding H.R. 918, the Minerals Exploration and Development Act of 1991.


I would like to commend the Subcommittee for its interest in this important public resource issue. The need for the complete replacement of the 1872 Mining Law is clear. The record is awash with evidence that the 1872 Mining Law, designed for an era when the government was bent on disposal of the public domain, legitimizes the abuse of our environment. A rash of Government Accounting Office studies and commissioned reports have unequivocally established the need for fullscale legislative reform.

These past findings, the well established hearing records, coupled with an Increasingly aggressive and prosperous mining industry, have heightened concerns about the environmental impacts of large scale, modern mineral production on the public lands.

The Sierra Club has made replacement of the Mining Law a priority in its work this year. We continue to believe that a complete rewrite of the Mining Law is needed. Enacting into law only partial changes such as those that would merely institute small holding fees for claims or charge fair market value for surface value of lands -- would be an opportunity lost. The problems inherent in the current mining law run so deep that only a completely new law will ensure protection of our environment.

We believe that a sound new mining law must include these basic elements:

1. Give explicit authority to federal land managers to exercise discretion over whether mining takes place. Current law allows mining to routinely override all federal land planning processes, and it is created as the highest and best use of lands. Agency personnel continue to insist that they have no authority to weigh the value of the proposed mining activities against other values.

2. Establish environmental standards for mining operations and hold operations accountable for environmental consequences through operating standards, bonding, and uniform, federal reclamation standards,

3. Return to the public royalties in return for use of public lands and the mineral taken from those lands. Royalties should fund, in part, an abandoned mine clean-up program. Patenting of both public lands and minerals should be ended.

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In addition, there are several features of the current law (the discovery provision, on-ground claim staking, uncommon varieties, extralateral rights) that remain today as curiosities, souvenirs from an age when grizzled prospectors ranged the West. Reform legislation should usher these museum pieces into legislative history.

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It is against these broad criteria that I will now offer our assessment of HR 918.

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The bill before us has valuable provisions and would take steps to end the well documented abuse of our public domain. A few of the strong points of the legislation are:

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HR 918 ellminates patenting of public lands and minerals. The transfer of
public lands for private profits has been a lightening rod for public anger
toward the 1872 Mining Law in the last several years. Much publicity has come
from recent reports such as the 1989 federal government study that revealed
widespread abuse of the law. The report showed, for instance, that one 160-
acre clain near the Keystone, Colorado, ski resort was patented in 1983 for
$2.50 an acre, then offered for sale in 1988 for nearly $11,000 an acre.
We believe that today, in contrast to the time when the law was enacted, the
public lands should be held and managed wisely for the use and enjoyment of
all. We applaud the Chairman for including the provision to eliminate
patenting of both lands and minerals.

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HR 918 establishes a reclamation fund for abandoned aines, Unreclaimed pines have taken their toll on more than 420,000 acres in 11 Western states, according to a 1988 Government Accounting Office report. The costs of cleanup are uncertain, but they will run into the billions. The Hardrock Reclamation Fund established in Title 3 is badly needed.

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In addition, HR 918 gives specific statutory language for reclamation (see below).

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HR 918 streamlines administration of Forest Service lands. This legislation vests authority to the Forest Service for minerals on the National Forest lands, a provision that we support.

HR 918 contains a citizen suit provision, inspection and enforcement clauses, and takes steps to prevent known violators from violating again.

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HR 928 should be revised to give agencies full discretion over mining. As written, the discretion given to agencies over mining by HR 918 is incomplete.

We find Section 2016 (4) to be unacceptable. It would give federal land
managers the ability to approve or modify but not to deny -- plans of
operations if the land use plan for the area in question includes mining.
Thus, the bill fails to provide the discretionary system that the Sierra Club
believes is critical to protection of other values of the public lands. No
party should be allowed to commence operations on the public lands until the
surface managing agency determines, on a site-specific basis, that the
proposed operation is compatible with multiple-use objectives. This is the
bost important provision we recommend today. Without the authority to deny
aining on a case-by-case basis, HR 918 perpetuates one of the key flaws of the
current law.

HR 918 should expand off-limits lands. The legislation examined here today
puts off-limits lands (Section 204) recommended for wilderness designation by
the federal management agency, pending Congressional action; lands managed by
BLM as WSAs, except where specifically allowed to continue; Wild and Scenic
River units and study areas. pending Congressional action; and lands that may
heretofore or hereafter withdrawn from the location of mining claims.
We believe that units of the national wildlife refuge system, national trails
system and the national park system should be added to this list. These areas
should be reopened to possible mineral production only through Congressional

HR 918 should nore adequately address reclamation. A key element of acceptable
reform legislation will be strong, federal standards for reclamation. I would
like to provide the subcommittee with a few examples of problems with
reclamation from the state of Nevada. The BLM in Nevada provides good
examples, since nearly every BLM district in the state has a substantial
nining industry, but the interpretation of the regulations vary widely. Our
Nevada activists have found that lack of consistency between BLM districts is
a major reason that 1872 Mining Law reform legislation must have clear,
specific national reclamation requirements. The BLM is basically run on a
district level, with little oversight by either state or national offices,
What is uniform is an attitude of leniency toward mining operations.

Reclamation requirements should be included up front, as part of the Plan of Operations. The bill should link reclamation with operation planning, ensuring that reclamation is planned at the outset and, when possible, can be conducted concurrently with mining. Section 201 (b) now does not call for reclamation in the Plan of Operation. In the Elko District, a draft EIS was released on what will be the largest gold mine in the United States, with no reclamation plan. Although it is presumably to be included in the final Environmental Impact Statement, the public received a draft Eis that was premature and inadequate, The BLM bowed to pressure from the company even though the process was flawed and did not meet the intent or letter of regulations.

In the Ely district, the BLM granted a permit to the USMX Casino Mine with essentially no reclamation plan in the environmental assessment, and only a promise that a plan would be forthcoming. They did, however, indicate that revegtation of the 60-acre heap would not be required. This is inconsistent


with other districts that require revegetation of heaps. This is an example of low small mines can pose serious environmental problems.

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In the Battle Mountain District, the environmental assessment of the major expansion of the Copper Canyon/Copper Basin gold mine south of Battle Mountain had a completely inadequate reclamation plan. Tens of miles of roads had been allowed during exploration on public lands. Not only was there no provisions for reclamation of these roads in the reclamation plan, they were not even drawn on a map to indicate where they were. No revegetation standards were included, and there was even a suggestion that annual plants would be acceptable,

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There is a great need for strong, uniform federal reclamation standards. Again in Nevada, the inconsistencies between districts of the BLM have been made apparent by Nevada's new reclamation law, which now requires more uniform standards. The mining industry has been upset by this higher standard of oversight and twice during the 1991 state legislative session attempted to remove the authority of the State of Nevada over the reclamation of mining on BLM lands. Although both measures narrowly failed, it is remarkable that the same forces that created the sagebrush rebellion are now trying to get the state out of regulating federal lands. It is a testament to the leniency of the BLM's regulations that industry's defenders in the Nevada legislature now want the state to have no role in reclamation on federal lands.

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Though they are not incorporated into Plans of Operations, reclamation standards are spelled out in this bill in some detail. We commend you for including items such as prevention of acid mine drainage or other contamination of surface waters or groundwater in particular. We believe current agency reclamation policy particularly neglects the groundwater




This section includes other sensible provisions, such as removal of structures and equipment from lands. This could be especially useful for enforcing reclamation requirements on small scale mines, where our activists have found a legacy of litter that is troublesome if not toxic, Drums of hazardous wastes have contaminated groundwater at several sites, but the current BLM five-acre exemption offers a convenient loophole, and its lack of attention to groundwater resources needs to be changed.

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The reclamation section of HR 918 should stipulate that mined lands be recontoured to their approximate original contour. Mined lands should be reclaimed to blend with the surrounding topography. The large scale mines now being established across the West must not leave permanent unproductive scars.

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HR 918 should call for a return to the public for public resources. Environmentalists have long denounced the heavy subsidies enjoyed by commercial users of the public lands on the grounds that these subsidies consolidate and encourage environmental degradation. The Sierra Club believes that sound reform legislation should establish a royalty system in exchange for the permanent loss of public resources. We support a royalty of 12.5 percent of gross production. Part of those proceeds should be dedicated to the fund established in Section 301, which we believe is well designed to begin clean-up of some of the worst environmental degradation in the Nation, but

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