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that is site and project specific. One which takes into account the specifics of the proposal - i.e whether it involves cyanide - and the specifics of the site - i.e. proximity to ground and surface water is the only analysis which will achieve the goals of the bill.
Second, while land use plans currently identify areas where certain other resource use will be emphasized, the plans still require site specific analysis of specific proposals within that area. For instance, forest plans contain timber prescriptions · areas where timber harvesting is emphasized. If, however, a timber harvest in that area is proposed which would clearcut a riparian zone, destroying water quality, the land manager has the power to deny permission for the project. Similar restrictions apply to grazing, oil and gas, recreation, and all other uses of the forest. By not allowing the land managers to make decisions on the merits of a mining plan on a case by case basis, H.R. 918 perpetuates the special treatment currently accorded to mining. There is simply no legitimate reason mining, and its use of public land, should be treated any differently than other resources.
Third, there are places and circumstances where mining should not be allowed. If an undertunded mining company submits a woefully inadequate plan to mine in an environmentally sensitive area, why in the world should the land manager have his/her hands tied by only being able to approve or modify the plan? Why shouldn't they have authority to deny the application? I have enclosed an editorial from the Missoulian, Western Montana's leading daily newspaper, supporting change in the law. It quite eloquently addresses my last two points.
Thus, under H.R. 918 as drafted, the mining industry would continue to have a virtual tree hand to develop in areas considered for mining under a land use plan. While this situation may be acceptable with a responsible mining company - and many in Montana take a real responsibility for their actions - it can be catastrophic when you have an irresponsible miner or company.
Land managers are well aware of the current limitations on their authority. Recently, I represented a group of citizens in Chester, Montana concerned about proposed gold exploration in the Sweetgrass Hills in north-central Montana. The Sweetgrass Hills are a small, forested range which juts up 3000 feet from the surrounding plains. They have not been withdrawn from mining under the current law. They are the only landmark on the horizon for many, many miles, and in this dry region, they are an important source of water for surrounding communities. They were described by one Native American speaker at a public hearing as an 'oasis in the desert." Not surprisingly. Native Americans from both sides of the U.S./Canadian border consider the Hills sacred.
In 1989, a mining company proposed an exploration project in the Hills, and a public hearing was put on by the BLM in Chester. During the course of the meeting, several citizens raised questions about what would happen if the exploration was successful and the company wanted to mine. What would happen if the company wanted to strip mine? The BLM official claimed that while some controls could be placed on the method of and access to the mine, they would be powerless to stop it. Even if a company wanted to remove the top of East Butte? Yes, even if they wanted to remove the top of East Butte.
Fortunately for the folks in Chester, that season's exploraton proved unsuccessful. There is no doubt, though that the same or another company will be back, wanting to mine these sacred hills. Those people's fears are not groundless, either. One hundred miles east of Chester, Pegasus Gold has removed a mountain and replaced it with a large open pit in its Zortman-Landusky complex in the Little Rocky Mountains. There, one billion gallons of cyanide contaminated water will remain in perpetuity in decommissioned heaps.
The folks in Chester can also turn their eyes 200 miles southward to reinforce their concerns. There, the Golden Sunlight Mine is 'mining - i.e. removing - another mountain in the Deerlodge National Forest. The cyanide heap leaches there have already leaked causing numerous cattle fatalities and destroying domestic water supplies. Despite this. the company now wants to expand. Many questions have been raised by the state and federal agencies in their own environmental assessments Yet despite these known and anticipated problems, the Golden Sunlight will be allowed to continue eating up Bull Mountain and spitting it out in huge unsightly and dangerous tailings piles. And the same would be the case under H.R. 918, assuming the land use plan considered the area suitable for mineral development. Yet, how can a general land use plan • completed in advance of a specific project - anticipate all possible environmental consequences of a project? it can't.
Thirty miles south of the Golden Sunlight, a small mining company has proposed opening a mine, also in the Deerlodge Forest
, at an alpine site at an elevation close to 10,000 feet in the Tobacco Root
Mountains. It is in an area that has been considered for Wilderness. One proposed access route would wind through the only major roadless and trailless drainage in the Tobacco Roots, while the other proposed access route bisects critical Mountain Goat habitat. The Tobacco Roots contain the highest concentration of peaks over 10,000 feet in Montana. They are becoming an important recreation area for both motorized and non-motorized recreation. The wildlife and water quality values are high. Nevertheless, the Forest Service tells us it has no power to consider whether the value of these other resources outweigh the potential mineral value from the mine. Even if those other values are high, the Forest Service cannot consider denying the permit. It can only decide which access route the miners will use.
In short, there are places where mining is simply incompatible with other public resource values. The land management agencies must be able to considermining on equal terms with all other resources - and, when necessary, have the authority to deny a permit. Anything short of that will only allow the disproportionate primacy of mining to continue at great expense to the public. H.R. 918, must address this inequity.
In conclusion, MEIC applauds Chairman Rahall for seeing the need to reform the mining law. Reform will not come easily. As the Missoulian editorial included with my testimony states, "(d)on't blame the miners for resisting change - they've got a good deal and they know it". However, I urge the Subcommittee to ask the mining industry why they should not be subject to all the same environmental rules that apply to anyone else operating on the public land. They will not, of course, be able to give you an answer. I also respectfully suggest that H.R. 918 must be further strengthened to ensure that environmental values will not be damaged by mining.
MEIC applauds you for leading an informed and open discussion on the 1872 Mining Law. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee.
Scrap the Hard Rock Act
1988 to li
19th-century federal law gives mining, geothermal development and every other mining companies unfair break kind of resource extraction.
Americans are giving away billions of l'sabout time the mining industry joined the dollars worth of gold, silver, copper and other 20th Century.
minerals each year, without collecting a dime in To be sure, miners have spacc-age
royalties. Meanwhile oil, gas, coal and other Technology at their disposal for locating and resources from public lands generate billions of extracting valuable minerals; they certainly cnjoy dollars in royalties. Montana collects royalties on modern-day prices for the products they
oil, gas and coal extracted from state lands, as produce. But mining on public lands is done well as a share of the royalties generated from under rules laid down by an archaic 19th those resources on sederal lands. Last year, those Century law that long ago outlived its usefulness. royalties totaled nearly $28 million, a large
Today's miners live in a kind of Never- percentage of which went into the School Trust Never Land where their rights on public lands Fund. supersede those of all others, where public assets
Mining is important to both the Montana are almost free for the taking and the
and national economics. The industry produces government actually encourages speculators and
the raw materials for many things our society amateur prospectors to tie up resources that
wants and needs. Donc properly, mining is might otherwise be developed by scrious miners.
compatible with many other uses of state and Hardrock mining is governed by the federal
federal lands. But shouldn't hardrock miners pay 1872 Mining Law, an act that declares mining 10
their fair share through royalties? Of course they be the highest and best use of each and every
should. What's more, shouldn't the public retain acre of public land. The mining law was created
ownership of its lands, even though the mineral at a time when settlement of the untamed
deposits under ground are extracted? Yes, of western wilderness was a national priority. The
course. law came out of an era that also saw vast regions of the West opened to homesicading or given
Unlike miners, loggers can't assume away to railroads to encourage westward
ownership of public lands when they find cxpansion. Timber, in those days, was free for harvest able timber. Neither can ranchers who the laking from public lands — as was virtually
find livestock forage on public lands. They must every other resource.
buy or lease the resources. Even commercial Under the 1872 law, miners continue to have outfitters must pay a fee to do business on public free rein to explore for minerals on public lands. lands. No one but a minor has the right to clalm Anyone can lay claim to a chunk of national ownership of valuable public land for a nominal forest or Bureau of Land Management land, and
fee. They can treat the land much as their own private Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., has introduced properly so long as they make at least $100 legislation intended to bring the nation's century. worth of "improvemenis" annually. A miner old mining law up to date. Although existing who finds profitable deposits or minerals owns patented mining claims wouldn't be affected, thern and, for as little as $2.50 an acrc, can new mines would have to be developed under obtain title to the land.
rules comparable to those followed by other Once a claim is staked or later patented, public-resource users. there's no obligation to ever mine the property.
Miners contend that their industry is unique, As a result, amatuer miners can actually prevent serious miners from extracting valuable ore.
that they pay plenty through taxes, wages and Speculators, 100, can obiain claims with the hope reclamation. They also argue that their industry
has high capital costs, and that paying royalties of selling them at great profil, rather than mining themselves. For example, the federal
could make marginal mines unprofitable. General Accounting Office this year reported
Yet the same arguments could be made by that speculators acquired 82,000 acres of oil the other resource-extraction industries, which shale claims under terms of the 1872 law, then seem to prosper despite being governed by sold 17,000 acres of the claims — for which the modern laws that aren't nearly as generous as the government received a pallry $42,500 — for 537 law governing miners. The simple fact is that it million.
once was in the public interest to give miners the In contrast, the oil and gas industry plays by rights bestowed by the 1872 Mining Law. but an entirely different set of rules. An exploration
that day's long past. company must lease public lands before drilling Don't blame the miners for resisting change for oil or gas. Il recoverable deposits arc
in the law – they've got a good deal, and they discovered, the company may pump them out know it. Blame Congress and the federal and sell them -- but they must also pay a
bureaucracy for giving away public resources royalty, which is shared by the state and federal without due compensation to the American government. The same holds true for coal taxpayer.
have w bought with N advisor
Mr. MARTIN. Mr. Chairman, Members of the House, I appreciate this opportunity to speak today, your invitation and your willingness to listen to the thoughts and concerns of myself and The Cabinet Resource Group that I am representing here today. Our group is small compared to most of the groups represented here today. We have been 150 to 200, depending on how many people have currently paid their dues. But, in rural Montana that is a significant number of people.
You have my written testimony, so I am not going to read it to you. Instead I would like to give you some specific examples from our experience to refute a couple of arguments that have been made against this bill today and to illustrate the need for decisionmakers
to be able to modify or even possibly deny mining. I live on Lake Creek, which is downstream from the tailings pond of Asarco's Troy Project in northwestern Montana. It is the largest silver-copper mine operating in the United States. Across Lake Creek about 1 mile is the boundary of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, within which two mines, also copper-silver, are currently under development by Noranda and Asarco. There are in addition approximately, I believe, 15 other known outcroppings of this mineralization that could lead to other large mines and it promises to become, perhaps, the largest mining district in the world.
I will take the pledge with everybody else. We are not opposed to mining, even in our own backyard. Members of our group are working in the mine. One of our board members holds claims. We have worked closely with the United Mine Workers of America and bought a computer with a grant from them. We are working now with Noranda in a very amicable relationship thus far on a citizens advisory committee.
We are opposed to mining in a manner, as it has been done in the past, that will damage our water, our wildlife, and most especially our lifestyles and the economics of our communities. An argument has been brought up today that all the problems of mining are in the past and that things have changed and we don't have those problems any more. The Asarco mine is touted often as a state-of-the-art mine, and when it came in we were told there would be no problems. We were concerned because of the history of mining in Montana and also in the Silver Valley nearby in Idaho.
Lake Creek, when it was tested before the mine came in, was the cleanest water ever tested up to that point in the State of Montana. It was the source of my drinking water and it was a classic clear mountain stream. Since it has been in operation at least a half a dozen times Lake Creek has run chocolate brown from various slumps and spills from the mine. It is now coated with silt and there is large algae blooms in it.
Some years later when we had hearings on the proposed Noranda mine we were again told that, “Well, those were problems in the past but now things are different." And I submit that we are always told, in 13 years of watching mining in Montana, that the problems are in the past but today we don't have those problems any more, and we haven't seen the problems go away.
Mr. Leonard in the first panel today stated that we didn't need to have authority to deny or modify mining because other laws,