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February 9, 1999


BLM Issues Proposed Revisions to Section 3809 Surface Management Regulations

NMA calls rules unnecessary and duplicative of existing laws

WASHINGTON -- The National Mining Association called revisions to Section 3809 Surface Management Regulations released today unnecessary and duplicative of existing state and federal environmental laws. The Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the revisions to the 3809 regulations - those which govern hardrock mining on federal lands - in today's Federal Register.

"The Department of Interior has failed to justify a wholesale rewrite of the BLM's surface management program," said NMA President and CEO Richard L. Lawson. "Mining on federal lands is now regulated by over a dozen federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as comprehensive individual state laws that reflect local climatic, geologic, and geographic differences among states. State mining oversight programs and enforcement are effective and continue to improve," Lawson explained.

Further, in late October 1998, Congress requested the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an independent study on mining of hardrock minerals on federal lands and the adequacy of existing environmental and reclamation requirements.

"The Department of Interior should delay any further work on revisions to the regulations until the NAS study has been completed and its report submitted and reviewed. Publication of draft regulations and a draft environmental impact statement prior to completion of the NAS study is premature and a waste of federal, state and industry resources," Lawson said.

"Secretary Babbitt has yet to identify a problem or deficiency in existing environmental programs at either the federal or state level," Lawson said. "This is indeed a solution looking for a problem."

"The federal government has failed to show that this proposal, if implemented, will result in any improvement in environmental protection. It will create, however, additional costs to states as they are forced to jump through needless federal bureaucratic hoops. State and federal land management agreements that have served the states and their citizens well over the last 15 years will be thrown away and replaced with inflexible, expensive, one-size-fits-all federal mandates," Lawson added.

"The mining industry supports reasonable surface management regulations and believes that the federal-state regulatory regime currently in effect is accomplishing its stated purpose, which is to prevent unnecessary and undue degradation of the land," Lawson said.

"The proposed rules are problematic and, if adopted as written, will significantly impair timely review of permit applications and seriously threaten future mineral exploration and development on public lands," Lawson concluded.

The U.S. mining industry produces coal, metals, building materials, and many other essential minerals that define the daily lives of 267 million Americans. In 1995, the industry generated almost $524 billion in total economic benefit and helped to sustain nearly 5 million U.S. jobs.