Wild Horse Education

Mining Reform, Derailed?

Over the last few years we have been offering you information and action items to address a long overdue change in public lands: mining reform.

Hard work saw hardrock mining reform added to legislation. That work is being derailed as The Greater Sage Grouse plans are being reviewed.

This is a déjà vu moment that likens back to 2014-2016 that set the stage for the “desperation alliances” that gave up up the fight and set up the largest roundups in US history (now fully funded in 2021).

The rocker box was the height of technology when the law governing hardrock mining, the law used today, was created.

The 1872 Mining Law is still the framework for hardrock mining in the US. This law places mining as a priority over all other interests, lacks substantive protections for water and wildlife, and does not require any real cleanup of any disastrous consequence.

Managers claim they can not deny mining. No matter how devastating the impact may be, agencies approve projects, requiring anyone trying to protect public resources to engage site-by-site legislation and expensive and drawn out litigation.

High Country News: The nearly 150-year old law allows mining companies to extract resources like copper and lithium royalty-free.. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. blocked what would have been the most consequential update a hardrock mining law has received in nearly 15 decades.

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The 1872 Mining Law is still the framework for hardrock mining in the US. This law places mining as a priority over all other interests, lacks protections for water and wildlife, and does not require cleanup of any disastrous consequence.

Managers claim they can not deny mining. No matter how devastating the impact may be, agencies approve projects, requiring anyone trying to protect public resources to engage site-by-site legislation and expensive and drawn out litigation.

“The language, which had been promoted by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, would have closed a loophole from the General Mining Act of 1872 that imposed royalties on fossil fuel production from federal land but left hard-rock mining untouched. That language is gone, and all that remains is a $3 million appropriation for the Bureau of Land Management to develop new regulations to prevent damage from hard-rock mining.” (Nov. 2021 S&P global)

Cow pasture in the foreground, mining tailings in the far ground, trap stuck in the mid-ground. This photo is almost an analogy for the entire program.

Mining Reform Derailed last month when Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)  convinced party leaders to scrap a provision in the $1.7 trillion climate and social spending package that would have imposed royalties on hardrock mines.

Masto now seeks to strip language from the House-passed reconciliation bill. The language she wants to delete would stop funding for new federal regulations on the mining industry to protect public lands.

From E&E

After Cortez Masto used her clout as a vulnerable 2022 incumbent to kill the new mining royalties, proponents of reining in the mining sector have been clinging to this more modest, but still significant, $3 million investment — their last remaining chance to make major changes to the industry through the reconciliation process (E&E Daily, Nov. 3).

The money would pay for the resources and expertise needed to craft changes to the mining rules, something activists have long sought given existing mining laws have not been updated in more than a century.

Cortez Masto, however, has been a fierce critic of policy proposals that would create new rules around mining, arguing they could make it harder for the industry to operate and pursue new activities on federal lands.

Mining claims in the West. It is not just the livestock industry that threatens wild horses.

Anyone that travels the West knows how fast things are changing. The change is primarily driven by mining “boom” in the human landscape built by “boom and bust” of the mining industry. Head off-road anywhere and you will see the widening roads, truck traffic, loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, tailing piles, on and on.

Anyone that tried to push mining out of sensitive areas, stop water draw down, etc. knows it is almost impossible to impact mining damage.

Mining has already skirted the royalties in the provision in the the $1.7 trillion climate and social spending package through their influence over political allies.

Mining is the “strongest arm” in the West due to the massive revenue streams made off our wealth taken from public lands. Will the $3 million investment, the last remaining chance this legislative round to fund changes to the industry through the reconciliation process also be lost?

What you can do:

You can call your Senator and tell them to:

“Maintain the $3 million dollars in the reconciliation bill to start holding mining on public lands accountable.”

Find your Senator HERE.

This amazing old man medicine hat lives on a range where the best habitat is being decimated by mining and more has been approved.

Reforming the 1872 Mining Law is a critical part of reforming public lands management. For wild horse advocates mining is tearing apart HMAs at an extremely rapid rate and drawing down water tables in the most arid states in the nation.

Unlike other free-roaming animals that live on our western landscapes, wild horses are confined to less than 13% of our public lands. The can not move from these areas without being subject to immediate removal. Our wild horses are losing habitat to mining at an astounding pace.

Hard rock mining has been expanding rapidly in wild horse territory. Precious acres are being impacted, water tables dropping, water quality at risk. Simple mine traffic is often responsible for roundups.

The only mitigation to the damage to wild horse habitat is an assertion that traffic will “go slow.” BLM has no set speed limit to define “slow.” Traffic moves fast in wild places and wild horses get hit. Then wild horses are considered a safety hazard to the traffic and a roundup makes the top of BLMs list. BLM keeps no official statistics.

BLM does not exchange of land, forage or water improvements to mitigate the immense footprint of mining in Herd Management Areas (HMA).

Migratory routes are cut off inside HMAs, large areas fenced off, access to water inhibited. BLM does not require mines to provide wells for wildlife and assure water quality and availability. Then wild horses get removed. BLM still does not define critical habitat for wild horses as we lose that critical habitat rapidly. 

Our ability to address this massive impact to the limited areas wild horses can legally exist is, in part, impeded by an archaic law.

Please make one call. And if you live in West Virginia or Nevada, call your Senator and give them an earful. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. blocked what would have been the most consequential update a hardrock mining law has received in nearly 15 decades.

What you can do:

You can call your representatives and tell them to:

“Maintain the $3 million dollars in the reconciliation bill to start holding mining on public lands accountable.”

Find your Senator HERE.


Learn More About the fight ahead in 2022

Mandate to Manage Humanely (it is not just about a roundup)

Sage Grouse Planning Reviews (defining the battleground for 2022)

You can help us continue our innovative work and double your impact today.

Categories: Wild Horse Education