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December 15, 2000

NMA Challenges Unnecessary, Costly and "Unlawful" 3809 Rules
"BLM has defied Congress, National Academy of Sciences, Western Governors"

Washington -- The National Mining Association filed a legal challenge today to the Bureau of Land Management's newly promulgated 3809 surface mining regulations in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. Despite conflicts with many of the recommendations of a Congressionally-mandated National Academy of Sciences study, the new rules were published in the November 21 Federal Register and will go into effect on January 20, 2001.

"The BLM has blatantly disregarded guidance from the National Academy of Sciences, disobeyed the wishes of the Western Governors and defied standing instructions from Congress," said NMA President and Chief Executive Officer Jack N. Gerard. "Be assured that the National Mining Association will fight in every way and at every point possible to curb these excesses by this overzealous agency."

The NAS study was originally called for by the Western Governors when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was unable or unwilling to explain why new surface management rules were necessary. Congress appropriated $800,000 for the study in October 1998, and in September of 1999, the completed study showed the existing regulatory program was sufficient to protect the environment and the best way to improve the program was to better enforce the existing rules. Despite these findings, the BLM continued to pursue a dramatic expansion of unneeded rules.

In its lawsuit, NMA takes particular issue with an unlawful, newly-added "substantial irreparable harm" provision that effectively gives BLM a new "mine veto" power rendering any investment in mineral exploration or mine development extremely risky. "The BLM has conferred upon itself authority and jurisdiction that Congress never granted or considered granting. These new rules presume BLM can prevent and close down mining almost at whim," explained Gerard. Even more unlawful, according to the NMA lawsuit, is that BLM's "mine-veto" provision was not in the proposed rule and the public was given no notice of this provision and no opportunity to comment.

"These unlawful actions threaten not just the survival of our country's hardrock mining industry, but also our regional rural economies, communities, families, and individuals dependant on responsible mining activities long endorsed by Congress. Also at stake is our nationís supply of critical strategic minerals and the infrastructure that supports their development," said Gerard. "It is unconscionable that the BLM has chosen to turn a blind eye to the comments of so many independent parties."

BLMís own economic analyses confirm the severe adverse impact of the new 3809 Regulations:

"The value of mine production originating from public lands under the [new 3809 Regulations] is estimated to decrease by 10% to 30%, or by $169 million to $484 million across the study area. This level of decreased production would cause the following decreases across key western hardrock mining states:

The National Mining Association has maintained that a massive overhaul to the existing 3809 program would be detrimental to the industry and cost America millions of dollars in economic revenue and thousands of high-paying jobs. Also of consideration is the cost of the new program's implementation and compliance which, according to the BLM's environmental impact statement, would "require a 35% increase in the current expenditure level, or about $27 million," a cost which will be paid for by American taxpayers.

According to the NMA complaint, "the new 3809 Regulations exceed BLM's statutory authority and are arbitrary, capricious, and inconsistent with existing laws, including Federal Land Planning and Management Act, the Mining Law of 1872, and were promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act."

The U.S. mining industry produces coal, metals, building materials, and many other essential minerals that define the daily lives of 267 million Americans. The mining industry generates over $500 billion in total economic benefit each year and helps to sustain nearly 5 million U.S. jobs.