Mining reform chances highly uncertain at best

2011-03-16T12:35:00Z 2011-03-17T12:44:55Z Mining reform chances highly uncertain at bestTony Davis Arizona Daily Star
March 16, 2011 12:35 pm  • 

Updated: Here is another news article on this issue, from an Elko, paper, with plenty of  industry quotes opposing the Obama proposal and doubting its chances of passage.

Here is a 2007 article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, containing Obama's criticisms of an earlier mining reform bill that had passed the House but never got through the Senate.

This story out of Washington, D.C. offers not a lot of hope for those who want congressional overhaul of hard-rock mining laws that date back to 1872. Everybody on all sides of this decades-old issue talks in favor of some kind of reform. But the details always remain too devilish to work out a compromise.

Written by the e-wire service Greenwire, the article discusses prospects for budget proposals by President Obama to set royalties on minerals extracted from public lands. Right now, there aren't any--a sore point for many environmental groups who see this as a ripoff of taxpayers. Mining companies quoted in the story agree that some kind of payment would be acceptable but the two sides seem far apart on details. The companies point out how long it takes to permit mines in this country and that more and more mineral production is already going overseas.

Not spelled out in this story is whether the current proposal contains a provision that would have a more immediate and  direct impact out here -- spelling out for the first time that the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management can say "no" to a proposal such as the contentious Rosemont Mine proposed for the Santa Rita Mountains, southeast of Tucson. Provisions to that effect have gone nowhere in the past, as have all other efforts to reform this law since the days of Mo Udall.

Udall, the late, widely revered House Interior Committee chairman from Tucson, tried and failed to get the law changed back in the 1970s. That happened at a time when Democrats had whopping, post-Watergate scandal, congressional majorities. This time around, the Obama-floated mining proposals face resistance from the industry and congressional Republicans who have a lot more clout than they did a year ago--let alone back in 1977.

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Star reporter Tony Davis covers topics in this blog that you have read under his byline for more than 30 years in the Southwest: water, growth, sprawl, pollution, climate change, endangered species, mining, grazing and traffic.

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