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1872 Mining Law

Film Industry Use of National Parks

Money-Losing Timber Sales

Oil Royalty Uperpayment

Timber Roads Construction

Tongass National Forest

University of Alaska Land Grab

Spending Comparison Chart

Advance to the Public Lands SectionPublic Lands

1872 Mining Law

The outdated 1872 Mining Law subsidizes mining companies in several ways: 1) mining companies have been able to extract billions of dollars of minerals from publicly owned lands without paying a dime in royalties; 2) mining companies can buy public land containing billions of dollars in minerals for $2.50 to $5.00 an acre; 3) mining operations have abandoned more than half a million mine sites, leaving the cleanup tab for taxpayers.

Although little progress has been made in reforming this archaic law, in 1997 the Solicitor General for the Department of the Interior announced he would enforce a provision of the law limiting the area of land that mining companies can take for outrage ously low prices for the dumping of toxic mining wastes. In March of 1999, for the first time in decades, the Interior Department denied a mine proposal for exceeding the waste dumping limit. Subsequent to this, there were two attempts to overturn the waste dumping limit. On the fiscal year 1999 Emergency Supplemental bill (S. 544) Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) attached a legislative rider that allowed the mine to go forward.

During the Senate consideration of the fiscal year 2000 Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2466), Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) attached another rider in an attempt to overturn the waste dumping limit. Craig's rider would have weakened the 1872 Mining Law by allowing all recent and future mines to have access to unlimited amounts of public land at outrageously low prices for the dumping of toxic wastes.

In response to the Craig rider, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and John Kerry (D-MA) offered an amendment to strip the Craig rider out of the bill. This amendment failed on a vote of 55 to 41. However, Representatives Nick Rahall (D-WV), Chris Shays (R-CT) and Jay Inslee (D-WA) led an effort in the House of Representatives to oppose the Craig rider. They passed an amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2000 Interior Appropriations bill on a bipartisan vote of 273 to 151.

During the final negotiations for the bill, the Craig rider was altered to exempt from the law all existing mines and all mines proposed by November 1997. President Clinton signed the modified rider into law. While an improvement over the existing law, this rider will mean that thousands more acres of public land will be given to the mining industry at low prices, while taxpayers bear the burden of cleaning up more toxic mining wastes.

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