Salazar: Time Has Come to Reform Outdated Mining Law

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama's agenda for reform, the time has come to update the nation's 19th century mining law to ensure reasonable royalty payments for extracting gold, silver and other minerals from federal land and to provide more effective regulatory, clean-up and reclamation tools, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said today.

“While the responsible development of our mineral resources is critical to both our economy and our environment, this statute has not been updated in 137 years,” Secretary Salazar told members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “In those years, much has changed. It is time to ensure a fair return to the public for mining activities that occur on public lands and to address the cleanup of abandoned mines.”

“We must find an approach to modernize the General Mining Law of 1872 and ensure that development occurs in a manner consistent with the needs of mining and the protection of the public, our public lands, and water resources,” said Salazar, who also worked on mining reform as a U.S. Senator. “It is time to make reform of the Mining Law part of our agenda of responsible resource development.”

Under the General Mining Law of 1872, numerous commodities are extracted to provide the raw materials essential for the manufacturing and building industries. The U.S. domestic gold mining industry alone directly or indirectly creates more than 66,000 jobs and nearly $2 billion in earnings annually. The United States is the second largest producer of gold and copper in the world, and the leading producer of beryllium, gypsum, and molybdenum.

The 5-year average for new mining claims staked annually under the law is about 76,000, with a current total number of claims at nearly 400,000. These claims generated almost $60 million in federal revenue in fiscal year 2008 -- mostly from the fees collected by the

Bureau of Land Management.

To read Secretary Salazar's opening statement before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, click here.

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