from the NEW MEXICO NEWS CONNECTION - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Washington, D.C. - A bill was introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives to reform hardrock mining laws that have been in place over 130 years. This, just as a new report outlines over a billion dollars of taxpayer money that could be lost over the next ten years because of mining subsidies.
New Mexico communities and lawmakers support reform to the 1872 hardrock mining law that would create royalties for mining like those that oil and gas companies pay. And, a proposed reclamation fee paid by industry would go towards putting people to work cleaning up abandoned mine sites in New Mexico and other states. Velma Smith, manager of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, says it's something that's long overdue, "Certainly, now that the country is going to have to make hard decisions about spending, you know, where we put our money, and trying to get people back to work - it's just way past time to do this."
Mining companies say the royalties and other proposed fees are too high, and could lead to smaller operations and lay-offs. Smith suspects the companies can cut back in other areas, and that funds would lead to cleaner water, jobs and increased quality of life in New Mexico. Senator Bingaman chairs the Senate Natural Resources committee and is also reportedly interested in moving reform forward in the Senate. The bill didn't make it out of that committee when it was introduced in the last Congress.
News of the bill comes the same day that a new report from Smith's group finds mining subsidies, and failure to charge royalties for taking minerals from public lands, could cost taxpayers over one and a half billion dollars in the next decade, "We hope that by putting these numbers out there, we wake people up to say 'Hey, wait a minute, there's some important questions of equity here, and what the taxpayers should be paying.'" Santa Fe County passed a resolution this week in support of the bill. Bernalillo, Sierra and Lincoln counties, and the cities of Albuquerque and Las Cruces have also passed resolutions in support of mining reform.