Mining is a dangerous issue to debate.

This is a bit old but I forgot to finish it last week...ooops...

BWTF picks up on a NYT editorial on the need for mining law reform.


On some level (the main level), it's a no-brainer. When it comes to mining, and the bill mentioned in the editorial, there are three major issues of concern:


1) Environmental and safety risks associated with mine development and operation.


2) Environmental and safety risks associated with abandoned mines.


3) Royalty payments as a method of "insurance" and/or revenue.


I work extensively with the mining industry in New York State (hopefully this post doesn't come back to bite me...it shouldn't, but I do feel a little uncomfortable), and I find it incredible that other states have not taken the initiative to address these issues directly. I realize I'm a little close to the issue, but in my opinion, New York State's Mined Land Reclamation Law, and it's application by NYSDEC, does an excellent job of addressing environmental and public safety concerns.


The specific concern cited in the editorial, the dangers of abandoned mines, is spelled out right in NYS's program...Mined Land Reclamation. The entire program is built on the foundation that the site will be reclaimed for a future use, consistent with the surrounding area (anything from a field or lake to a golf course to industrial parks). In addition to all the environmental permitting hoops (including public comment periods, stormwater and process water planning, spill controls and procedures, blasting, etc., etc.), mining applicants in New York State must provide a reclamation plan (for approval by NYSDEC) and a financial surety that is held as bond to ensure reclamation, and in the event that reclamation is not completed to NYSDEC standards (ie the approved reclamation plan), is used to complete reclamation objectives.

What should happen (if you ask me) is a re-vamping of the federal regulations (or at least some guidelines for states to implement) that addresses these issues. Storm water and pollutant discharges have been addressed by EPA and are administered (at least in NY, I assume elsewhere) by state regulators. A similar system might work for mining. Hell, if they want, they can hire us to write it for them.

The issue that I think should be separated from the debate is mineral royalties. I personally think they are an inappropriate measure to ensure reclamation. I think ours (NYS MLRL) is a better system for that. However, royalties definitely have a role. Regardless of mineral, the landowner should maintain a share of the profits from material taken from their land. But, once environmental and health issues have been addressed, royalties should be an economic factor only. Hey, this is America people.

Comments

Salty said…
Thanks for the post FH. It's good to know that some states aren't waiting for the Fed to amend an outdated mining law.

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