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September 29, 1999

The following is a statement by the National Mining Association on the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council's report on Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands released today:

Washington --
The National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council's report on Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands confirms what the National Mining Association has been saying since the Babbitt administration at the Department of Interior first began its ill-conceived surface management rulemaking over three years ago. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has failed to make a case for the wholesale rewrite of their subpart 3809 Surface Management regulations.

This study was originally requested by the Western Governors Association when Secretary Babbitt was either unable or unwilling to answer when the governors asked why new surface management rules were necessary. In testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, former-Governor Bob Miller of Nevada asked that an independent third party such as the National Academy of Sciences evaluate the need for a massive regulatory rewrite.

The NAS Committee on Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, an independent and diverse group of recognized experts representing a broad range of academic disciplines, has found that there are not sufficient "regulatory gaps" in the federal and state hardrock mining program. Instead, the study has shown the need for enhanced funding for current mining programs, as well as consistent management, increased personnel levels, and improved information management systems.

The NAS report tells us that the politicized Department of Interior needs to get its house in order rather than undertake an unnecessary, costly, and burdensome regulatory initiative. It is useless to duplicate what the states are already doing more efficiently and effectively than the federal government. It is a waste of federal and state taxpayers' money.

Over the last 4 years, the hardrock mining industry has paid the federal government $130 million in fees that are supposed to be used to administer the mining law. The General Accounting Office is currently auditing the Mining Law program in order to find out where the money is actually going. The NAS study indicates where the funding should be directed. NMA believes it should not be going to add duplicative regulations that the agency does not have the money or personnel to implement.

NMA and its members look forward to working with Congress and the mining professionals at the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to craft and implement reasonable changes in the federal mining programs to address the recommendations contained in the NAS Committee's report. These changes should be within the statutory limits set by Congress and directed at the specific, limited regulatory deficiencies clearly identified in the report.

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.