Interior Department's Damaging Economic Impact On U.S. Mining Industry Outlined During House Subcommittee Hearing
Washington, D.C. - Potential damaging effects on the mining industry posed by recent opinions issued from the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior and proposals to charge a royalty or other fee on minerals mined on public lands were the subject of a hearing held by U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources today.
Three controversial mining issues were addressed at the hearing:
1. An opinion by the Solicitor of the Department of Interior that would effectively end lead mining in southeast Missouri which is currently responsible for 85% of primary lead production in the United States.
2. A November 1997 opinion by the Solicitor interpreting a section of the General Mining Laws to restrict 5-acre mill site claims to one for every lode claim developed. The opinion could have widespread and devastating effects on operating mines as well as exploration on public lands.
3. Proposals for a Federal royalty on minerals mined on public lands.
"These recent decisions by the Solicitor of the Department of Interior - in which the public had no opportunity to comment, of course - appear to be pronouncements that Secretary Babbitt is frustrated by this Congress because we have been unwilling to cede our authority over public land policy-making, at least with respect to mining," said U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. "So, rather than negotiate with Congress, the Administration is 'making law' by handing down novel interpretations of statutes which have been around for a century in the one case, and many decades in the other. In fact, Secretary Babbitt recently said to the National Journal, 'We've switched the rules of the game. We're not trying to do anything legislatively'."
Interior Solicitor Criticized For Threatening To Shut Down
Hard Rock Mining Operations And Eliminating Thousands of American
- Rep. Gibbons
"If allowed to stand, the Interior Department's ruling will render the Mining Law virtually meaningless and shut down all hard rock mining operations and projects representing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment throughout the West," said U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbon (R-NV). "The Rahall Amendment to the FY 2000 Interior Appropriations Act, which would codify the Interior Department's reinterpretation of the Mining Law of 1872, will destroy the domestic mining industry and with the price of gold at a new 30 year low, the second largest industry in Nevada will cease to exist."
Administrative Decisions By Unelected Federal Bureaucrats Threaten To Jeopardize Future Of Hardrock Mining In U.S.
Gerald Shaheen, Group President of Caterpillar Inc. testified that "we are concerned that recent decisions by several U.S. government agencies will jeopardize the future of hardrock mining in this country. We support the efforts . . . to correct the recent millsite ruling by the Interior Department and remove the limitation of one 5-acre millsite per mining claim.
Shaheen added that the decline of the U.S. hardrock mining industry is "bad news for all of us."
"The mining industry encompasses more than jobs or miners out West; it's machinists, steel workers, tool makers, rubber workers, and assemblers from all parts of our country," Shaheen said. "A recent study conducted by the mining industry shows that mining, the economic activities associated with it, and the activities supported by it, typically cumulate directly and indirectly in the American economy as follows - $27 billion a year in revenue for local and state government, $57 billion in federal revenue, $144 billion in personal income, $296 billion in mining-dependent business income and a total of $524 billion impact on the U.S. economy; and 5 million dependent jobs. Today, every American requires almost 47,000 pounds of mined material a year."
Solicitor Opinion Restricting Lead Mining in Missouri A Usurpation of Congressional Powers
"This interpretation threatens every user of federal use lands," said Jeffrey Zelms, President and CEO of The Doe Run Company. "It puts all of us in the position of being subject to an interpretation that is without boundaries and leaves executive branch decision-making outside of the process of public debate."
"I would ask this Committee to draw a bright line and say that without Congressional consultation the executive branch should not attempt to usurp Congressional powers. I would ask this Committee to conduct additional hearings into this matter to see how its application could devastate public land use and investigate the interpretation."
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