The House passed a bill to revamp a law governing the mining of minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc and platinum on federal land in 12 western states including Alaska. The bill (HR 322) overhauls an 1872 statute that was designed to spur settlement and economic development of the West.

Under the bill, the approximately 2,000 western mining operations must begin paying royalties to the Treasury on the minerals they extract. Claim holders no longer are allowed to obtain title to the land, which they now can do at a cost of $2.50 or $5 per acre. The bill also requires environmental reclamation of scarred lands, to be financed by royalty revenue.

Supporter George Miller (D-Martinez) said: "After 121 years of massive environmental damage, billions of dollars in lost revenues for taxpayers and bureaucratic chaos . . . we must all agree that the federal mining program is broke. The question is how to fix it."

Opponent Joe Skeen (R-N.M.) said the bill "overregulates a domestic industry and makes it virtually impossible for it to stay in business. If we continue to drive the ranching, mining and timber industries off public land, there will be nothing left out there. The people and the communities will go away."

The vote was 316 for and 108 against. A yes vote was to pass the bill.

How They Voted Rep. Harman (D): Yea Rep. Horn (R): Yea Rep. Tucker (D): Yea Rep. Waters (D): Yea

Environmental Amendment to Mining Law

The House rejected an amendment that would have set a tougher environmental test for allowing mining on federal land. The vote occurred during debate on the above bill (HR 322) to reform the Mining Law of 1872. Under the amendment, the departments of Interior and Agriculture could have banned mining if they feared only "significant" ecological damage as opposed to "permanent and irreparable" damage as the bill specifies.

Amendment sponsor Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) cautioned: "There are thousands of valid mining claims in or near wilderness areas, national parks, wild and scenic rivers and other sensitive areas."

Opponent Richard H. Lehman (D-North Fork) said the amendment would lead to "a broad lockup" of federal land and was unnecessary because the bill already safeguarded environmentally sensitive acreage.

The vote was 199 for and 232 against. A yes vote was to make it easier for the government to ban mining on public lands.

How They Voted Rep. Harman (D): Yea Rep. Horn (R): Nay Rep. Tucker (D): Yea Rep. Waters (D): Yea Source: Roll Call Report Syndicate

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