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The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the pending amendment is laid aside.

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   The clerk will report.

   The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

   The Senator from Washington [Mrs. MURRAY], for herself, Mr. DURBIN, and Mr. KERRY, proposes an amendment numbered 1360.

   Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

   The amendment is as follows:

   On page 122, strike lines 1 through 15.


   Mr. REID. Mr. President, I send an amendment to the desk.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.

   The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

   The Senator from Nevada [Mr. REID], for himself, Mr. CRAIG, and Mr. BRYAN, propose an amendment numbered 1361 to the language proposed to be stricken by amendment No. 1360.

   Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

   The amendment is as follows:

   In lieu of the language proposed to be stricken, insert:


   (a) PROHIBITION ON MILLSITE LIMITATIONS.--Notwithstanding the opinion dated November 7, 1997, by the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior concerning millsites under the general mining law (referred to in this section as the ``opinion''), in accordance with the millsite provisions of the Bureau of Land Management's Manual Sec. 3864.1.B (dated 1991), the Bureau of Land Management Handbook for Mineral Examiners H-3890-1, page III-8 (dated 1989), and section 2811.33 of the Forest Service Manual (dated 1990), the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture shall not, for any fiscal year, limit the number or acreage of millsites based on the ratio between the number or acreage of millsites and the number or acreage of associated lode or placer claims with respect to any patent application grandfathered pursuant to Section 312 of this Interior Appropriations Act of X; any operation or property for which a plan of operations has been previously approved; any operation or property for which a plan of operations has been submitted to the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service prior to October 1, 2000; or any subsequent amendment or modification to such approved or submitted plans.

   (b) NO RATIFICATION.--Nothing in this Act shall be constructed as an explicit or tacit adoption, ratification, endorsement or approval of the opinion.

   Mr. REID. Mr. President, I simply want to say I have every understanding of the consternation and the concern of my friends from Washington, California, and Illinois about the state of mining in America. They have concerns that should be raised. They have concerns that have been raised. However, this very narrow issue is being talked around.

   The fact of the matter is, the picture that my friend from Washington held up, a beautiful mountain area in Washington, has nothing to do with what we are talking about tonight.

   The fact is the pictures she showed were pictures from some other mining operation that probably took place at least 60 years ago.

   Let's take, for example, a mine that is right over the Nevada border in California. It is called Viceroy Gold. It is in the State of the Senator from California, but it is a mine that is very close to the people of the State of Nevada. It is a short distance from the place I was born, Searchlight, NV. It took $80 million to get that operation in a situation where it could be mined. It started out as an old mine and was originally called Big Chief Mine around the turn of the century. After spending $80 million, this mine was developed. It is an open-pit mine.

   I invite everyone to look at that mine because part of the requirements of being allowed to mine there is the land has to be reclaimed. This is an area where they have Joshua trees and some small cedar trees, lots of sagebrush. They have a nursery. When they decide to take some ore, some muck, some dirt out of the ground, they take the trees that are where this open-pit mine is going to be, and they save them. When that area is mined out, they have to reclaim the land. They fill it up and replant these trees. That is going on right now.

   That mine only has about a 2-year life left. When the mine is finished, the land will look like it did before. That is one of the requirements. They put up a big bond which makes that necessary. It is not a question of they do it because they like to do it; they do it because that is a requirement of the State of California that they replace the land the way it used to be.

   It is good to do all these scary pictures about mining. My father was a miner, and if my father thought there was gold

   under my desk, he would dig a hole. That is the way he used to do things. But you cannot do that anymore. There are requirements that say you cannot do that.

   I say to my friends from the State of Illinois, from the State of California, and the State of Washington, I have tried to change the 1872 mining law. We have been trying to do that for 10 or 12 years. We offered legislation to change that. We have been as far as conference to change it, but it is never quite good enough. No one is willing to go 50 yards; they want to go 100 yards.

   I have always said: Let's change it; let's do it incrementally. It is similar to the Endangered Species Act in which I believe. People want to rewrite the Endangered Species Act totally. It will never happen. We are going to have to do it piece by piece.

   Superfund legislation: I believe in the Superfund legislation. We are never going to reauthorize Superfund totally. We need to do it piece by piece. That is what we need to do with this mining law.

   What are we talking about? Secretary Bruce Babbitt is only going to be Secretary of the Interior for another year and a half. He is not willing to go through the legislative process. What he wants to do is legislate at the Department of Interior, down at 16th Street or 14th Street, wherever it is. He is legislating down there, and he has admitted it.

   Secretary Babbitt has indicated he is proud of his procedure and proud of the way he is doing it. This is what he has said:

   ..... We've switched the rules of the game. We're not trying to do anything legislatively.

   Here is what else he says:

   One of the hardest things to divine is the intent of Congress because most of the time ..... legislation is put together usually in a kind of a House/Senate kind of thing where it's [a bunch of] munchkins .....

   The munchkins, Mr. President, are you and me. He may not like that, but I think rather than taking an appointment from the President, he should do as the First Lady and run for the Senate and see if he can get it changed faster.

   Our country is set up with three separate but equal branches of Government. The executive branch of Government does not have the right to legislate. It is as simple as that. What has been done in this instance is legislating. That is wrong.

   What we are doing--and that is what this debate is all about--is not changing anything. We are putting it back the way it was before he wrote this opinion--he did not write it; some lawyer in his office wrote it--overturning a law of more than 100 years.

   All these pictures are not the issue at point. I do not think any of my colleagues will agree that President Clinton or any of his Cabinet officers or anybody in the executive branch of Government have the legal ability to write laws. That is our responsibility, and that is what this debate is about today.

   I recognize the 1872 mining law needs to be changed. Let's do it. I am not debating the fact that it needs to be changed. I have offered legislation at the committee level and the conference level to change the amount of money that mining companies pay when they get a patent. We all agree that should be done, but they do not want to do it because it takes away a

   great piece of argument they have: You can get land for $5 an acre.

   We have agreed to change it. It has been in conference where we said: If you go through all the procedures to get a patent, then you should pay fair market value for the land. We agree. Let's do it.

   They keep berating these mining companies. Mining is in a very difficult time right now. The price of gold is around $250. Yesterday, the press reported that a company from a little town in Nevada called Battle Mountain in Lander County laid off 200 more workers. That little community has had a little bar and casino for some 60 years. That just closed. Mining is in very difficult shape.

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   I say to my friends who care about working men and women in this country, the highest paid blue collar workers in America are miners. I repeat: The highest paid blue collar workers in America are miners. They are being laid off because mining companies cannot proceed as they have with these jobs when the gold price has dropped $150 an ounce. It went from almost $400 to $250. They are really struggling. England just sold I do not know how many tons of gold. The IMF is threatening to sell gold. Switzerland is talking about selling gold.

   Mining companies are having a difficult time maintaining. One of the largest mining companies in Nevada--the State of Nevada is the third largest producer of gold in the world. South Africa and Australia lead Nevada. We produce a lot of gold, but the confidence of the mining industry has been shaken tremendously. It is getting more and more difficult to make these mines profitable.

   One mining company in Nevada, a very large company, has had two successive years of tremendous losses. We have one mining company that still has some profits, the reason being that they sold into the future. They are still being paid on a high price of gold which the free market does not support.

   I say to my friends, let's change the mining law. All we are trying to do, I repeat, is not let Secretary Bruce Babbitt legislate. That is what he did. All this does is take the law back to the way it existed.

   I heard my friend from Washington say: Why don't the mining companies--I may have the wrong word; ``dialog'' is not the word she used--have some dealings with Congress? They have tried. We are trying to come up with legislation on which we should all agree.

   I hope my friends, for whom I have the deepest respect, understand this is a very narrow issue. I do not mind all the speeches. My friend from California, my friend from Washington, and my friend from Illinois are some of the most articulate people in the Senate. They have great records on the environment. My record on the environment is second to no one. I acknowledge I have defended the mining industry in this Chamber for many years, and I will continue to do so. I want everyone to understand I have tried to be reasonable on this issue, at least that is according to through whose eyes you look. I have tried to be reasonable on this issue before us today.

   Also, I have tried to be reasonable on the mining issue generally. As my friends will acknowledge, in the subcommittee I offered a very minimal amendment. It was broadened in the full committee, which is fine. But what I have done, along with Senators BRYAN and CRAIG, is tried to change what was done in the full committee.

   I think what we have done is reasonable. I tell my friends, basically, here is what it says. It says Babbitt's opinion does not apply to mining operations that are now ongoing and mining operations that are ongoing that need additional mill sites. It does not apply to new applications. I think that is fair.

   Mrs. MURRAY. Will the Senator yield for a question?

   Mr. REID. In a second.

   I think it is fair. I say to my friends, I think it should not apply to anything because I think the opinion is worthless and does not have any meat on its bones. I do not think the Solicitor has any right to offer the opinion that he did. But I think this amendment is an effort to kind of calm things down, to compromise things. I say to my friends, if you want the law changed, let's change it. I am happy to work with you.

   I am happy to yield for a question without losing my right to the floor.

   Mrs. MURRAY. I appreciate the Senator yielding for a question because the Senator has a second-degree to my amendment that strikes the language. I understand the Senator from Nevada would like to find a compromise, but the language of the second-degree says that:

   .....any operation or property for which a plan of operations has been previously approved; any operation or property for which a plan of operations has been submitted to the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service prior to October 1, 2000; or any subsequent amendment or modification to such approved or submitted plans.

   To me, it says that leaves the door open for any future, not just current, mine.

   Mr. REID. We can even talk about the effective date of this legislation. But the intent of the amendment is to protect those operations that are now ongoing. Secretary Babbitt has written a letter to me--that is part of the record of the committee--saying that mining operations that are now in effect would not be harmed by his Solicitor's opinion. What this amendment does is go one step further and say, not only the mining operations that are now in effect but those that are ever in effect that have filed a plan of operation to expand would also be protected.

   So that is really the intent of the amendment.

   I say to my friends, don't beat up on the mining industry. They supply good jobs. We are willing to change the law. I do not know if any of my friends are on the committee of jurisdiction, the Natural Resources Committee. I am not. I would be happy to work with you in any way I can, as I have indicated on at least one other occasion tonight.

   We have tried. We have had legislation that dramatically changes the 1872 mining law that has gotten as far as the conference between the House and Senate, but it was not good enough. We have made absolutely no changes in the law since I have been in the Senate, going on 13 years. I want to make changes. There aren't too many people who are not willing to

   make changes.

   So I would hope we could tone down the bashing of the mining companies. They supply jobs. They are not trying to rape the environment. Under the rules that are now in effect, if they wanted to, it would be very hard to do.

   In the place where I was raised, we have hundreds of holes in the ground, created in the years when mining took place there. There are a lot of abandoned mines we need to take care of. There are laws in effect.

   In the State of Nevada you have to have fences around some of the holes so people do not ride motorcycles into them or do things of that nature. Abandoned mines that create a harm to the environment, we need to clean them up. I am willing to work harder to have money to do that. But let's limit what we are talking about to the harm that has already been done. Certainly we have a right to do anything legislatively we need to do to protect harm from happening in the future. That is what I am willing to do.


   I ask unanimous consent that Mike Haske, a congressional fellow in my office, be granted privileges of the floor during the pendency of S. 1292.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

   Mr. REID. Mr. President, if the Chair would indulge me for a second.

   I apologize to my friend from Illinois who I understand wants the floor.

   I yield the floor at this time.

   Several Senators addressed the Chair.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.

   Mr. GORTON. Mr. President, I want to make a quick unanimous consent request.


   I ask unanimous consent that Sean Marsan and Liz Gelfer, both on detail to the Appropriations Committee staff, and Kari Vander Stoep of my personal staff, be granted floor privileges for the duration of the debate on the fiscal year 2000 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


   Mr. GORTON. I note for the RECORD technical clarifications to the committee report:

   On page 37 of the report, the section of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act that is cited should be section 1306(a), not section 1307(a).

   In the last paragraph on page 13 of the report, the reference to the ``Las Vegas Water Authority'' is an error. The language should have referred to the ``Las Vegas Valley Water District.''

   With that, I yield the floor.

   Mr. DURBIN addressed the Chair.

   The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.

   Mr. DURBIN. I rise in opposition to the motion that has been filed by the Senator from Nevada, Mr. REID, on behalf of himself, Senator CRAIG, and Senator BRYAN.

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   As I read the amendment that has been proposed by the Senator from Nevada, there is virtually no change in the

   original language offered by Senator CRAIG.

   What the Senator from Nevada seeks to do is to say those mining operations currently in operation, those which have the plans of operations submitted to the Bureau of Land Management prior to October 1 of the year 2000, will not be subject to limitation on the acreage that can be used for their dumping of their mill site. I would suggest to the Senator from Nevada it is a slightly different approach, but the net impact is the same.

   I have the greatest respect for the Senator from Nevada. I understand his knowledge and familiarity with this subject is certainly far better than my own. But I can tell the Senator, if he drives across my home area in down State Illinois, he will see the legacy of mining which we continue to live with.

   In years gone by, in the State of Illinois, and many other States, mining companies literally took to the land, extracted whatever was valuable, and left the mess behind for future generations. You can see it, not only in the areas where we had shaft mining, but you have on our prairies small mountains of what was left behind, often toxic in nature, that now have to be reclaimed by today's taxpayers. Or you might visit Fulton County or southern Illinois and find areas that were strip mined. What is left behind is horrible. It is scrub trees, standing lakes, but, frankly, uninhabitable and unusable--left behind by a mining industry that had one motive: Profit.

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