Readers React: Why updating the 1872 Mining Act with environmental regulations is unnecessary

Coal official allegedly cheated on safety tests, putting miners at risk of black lung
Coal produced at an underground mine in Muhlenberg County, Ky., is poured onto a pile used to load trucks in December 2018.
(Bill Estep / TNS)

To the editor: The op-ed article, “Why let mining companies rip up public land like it’s 1872?” presents a misleading picture of mining and the laws that govern it.

The 1872 Mining Act is not an environmental statute. That’s why mining operations are subject to exhaustive environmental, ecological and reclamation laws and regulations to ensure operations fully protect public health and safety, the environment and wildlife. Given the applicability of the National Environmental Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Historic Preservation Act and other statutes, including environmental standards in the text of the 1872 Mining Law would provide no additional environmental benefits.

Issues related to legacy mines are not due to the Mining Law’s lack of environmental provisions, but to the fact that the history of mining predates the brief history of environmental laws that cover modern industries, including mining.

Today’s comprehensive state and federal laws that govern mining make it one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. Duplicating those laws with a new Mining Act is unnecessary and would only harm an industry that is vital to our economy.


Hal Quinn, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the National Mining Assn.

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