WASHINGTON (July, 14, 2021) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, offered a bipartisan amendment that was included in the bipartisan infrastructure package that would establish an abandoned hardrock mine reclamation program through the U.S. Department of Interior.
Senator Heinrich has long championed efforts to modernize the nation’s out of date hardrock mining laws. He has fought for legislation to require companies to pay royalties for extracting mineral resources like gold, silver, and copper from public lands, like those paid for coal, oil, and gas production.
“Communities across the West deserve water that does not make them sick and land that is free from toxic waste. Establishing this new program will help clean up abandoned hardrock mines that are still polluting our lands and waters and harming our communities,” said Heinrich. “We are past due to make a significant federal investment in cleaning up the hardrock mine infrastructure that helped build our country, and modernizing our antiquated hardrock mining laws.”
Hardrock mines and mining features are related to extraction of metals like copper, gold, silver, and uranium. When not reclaimed, many hardrock mines pose a hazard to public health and the environment. There are at least 140,000 abandoned hardrock mine features across the western U.S., with at least 22,500 known to pose an environmental hazard.
Under this program, funds would be used to clean up federal, state, tribal, or private land and water resources that were used for, or affected by, hardrock mining activities by companies that no longer exist or went bankrupt. Half of available funds would be directly administered by the federal government on federal lands, and the other half would be distributed to States and Tribes to be administered as State and Tribal grants.
The amendment authorizes $3 billion for the program.
The amendment is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). It has also received support from Earthworks, Earthjustice, the National Mining Association, Trout Unlimited, and the National Wildlife Federation.
A copy of the amendment can be found here.