The Debate Over A Century Old Law — страница 2

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remained in effect largely due to powerful lobbying by the mining industry and the general public’s lack of awareness (Arrandale 531). The environment is playing an ever-increasing role in this debate. Present Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, has referred to the 1872 mining law as “the one federal resource law where the unrestrained, giveaway, environment-be-damned attitudes of the nineteenth century have persisted” (Arrandale 533). This has even led to single person operations (many that are recreational hobbyists) that are run much in the same way they were over one hundred years ago, with pickaxe and shovel, to come under examination because of the actions of the large mining corporations and their abuse of the environment. Some of these small time operations

have gained an unexpected ally in the face of corporate mining’s abuses to the environment. Local environmentalists in the Klamath River region of Northern California depend on these remotely located traditionalists. These miners are the watchdogs of the national forests when it comes to reporting offences by mining and logging companies (Barol, Zuckerman 62). Just Last year environmentalists narrowly prevailed in stopping a Canadian firm from opening a huge gold and copper mine only three miles from Yellowstone National Park. Logical, clear-cut decision, right? Guess again. The White House Council on Environmental Quality brokered (bribed) a deal with the Canadian developer in which they will receive federally owned land elsewhere, worth over $65 million, in return for giving

up the mining rights near Yellowstone (Satchell 12). Large mining corporations have taken advantage of cheap land and a lack of lease or royalty payments to the federal government. According to the General Accounting Office, at least $1.2 billion in hardrock minerals are extracted from public lands every year with absolutely no royalties returned to the public (Begley 22). In 1989 the General Accounting Office was asked to look into mining law abuses. They randomly investigated twenty cases and found the government had been paid just four thousand five hundred dollars for land that had a mineral worth of between $14 million and $48 million. Opportunists to this day continue to stake claims and resell them at a huge profit to mining corporations, housing developers, and any other

interested party with available funds (Hocker 25). In 1920 the Mineral Leasing Act was passed. This act allows the government to collect royalties of twelve and one-half percent of gross revenues on coal, oil, and natural gas produced from public lands. Unfortunately, hardrock minerals such as gold, silver, copper, and uranium are not covered by this leasing system (Arrandale 533). This has led to the writing of to reform bills, one by the House, and one by the Senate. In general, these bills hope to impose royalties, do away with the patent system in order to keep mining lands in federal ownership, and review public lands for their suitability to mining and the potential environmental impact that would result from such mining. Could all these reforms lead to the demise of the

mining industry? Or are the mining “execs” just trying to keep a good thing going? In Nevada, the mining industry claims that the implementation of harsh reforms could cause half the miners in that state to lose their jobs. Break-even operations could be seriously affected by royalty payments and the abolishment of patents, but by far the biggest cause for the loss of employment in the mining industry, in the industry itself. The progress made in the extraction of minerals from ore, a once laborious task, has now become more efficient, thus needing fewer employees. Arizona, in 1980, had twenty three thousand copper miners. That number has dropped to eleven thousand in twelve years, while at the same time the cost to produce a single pound of copper has dropped from $1.10 to

60 cents (Hocker 26). Mining executives deny that they are taking advantage of the system. John A. Knebel, president of the industry’s trade group, the American Mining Congress, states “Contrary to popular belief, our industry pays for the right to mind on federal lands” through federal taxes on companies’ profits and on the incomes of the mineworkers. He further states “We also pay production taxes [and other taxes to the state] which are used to help finance highways, hospitals, and schools” (Arrandale 534). Toronto based American Barrick Resources provides over seventeen hundred high wage jobs in the city of Elko Nevada, (where they recently took title to almost two thousand acres of mining land) they have also provided donations for schools and sewer lines in the