“From Alaska’s Brooks Range to Florida’s Everglades, mining proposals near national parks continue to threaten drinking water, clean air, fragile wildlife habitat and surrounding communities.” – Charlie Olsen, Climate Policy Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association
Washington, D.C.— Today, the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group released recommendations for updating hardrock mining laws and regulations. Tribes and conservation groups have welcomed this first step and are urging the administration to make additional improvements to protect communities, sacred places and water resources.
“As our country strives to solve the climate crisis, the administration’s recommendations for modernizing and reforming our nation’s antiquated hardrock mining laws is a necessary and critical step,” said Charlie Olsen, Climate Policy Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “From Alaska’s Brooks Range to Florida’s Everglades, mining proposals near national parks continue to threaten drinking water, clean air, fragile wildlife habitat and surrounding communities.”
“The Biden administration’s recommendations provide a path to transition our country towards clean energy in a way that prioritizes healthy communities and ensures that our most special places aren’t sacrificed in the process,” Charlie Olsen continued. “Now, Congress must meet this plan with action and move our country towards a safe, equitable and responsible energy development future.”
Current hardrock mining practices continue to inflict considerable harm on public lands, including polluting surface and groundwater, depleting springs and aquifers, contaminating land and air, harming fisheries, displacing wildlife and destroying sacred sites.
The existing law governing mining operations on federal lands has remained virtually unchanged since it was passed in 1872. The Interagency Working Group’s recommendations call for Congress to update the 1872 mining law, modernizing it to address current realities and establish a leasing system for hardrock minerals. The report also offers recommendations for addressing historic disparities in hardrock mining practices.
The recommendations in the report should serve as a basis to immediately begin the process of updating mining rules within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service (USFS). Read the full coalition press release.
Of the many outlined in the report, NPCA is encouraged by the following recommendations, which underscore the Biden administration’s continued commitment to protecting our national parks and connected landscapes:
Establishing a royalty system and dedicated revenues generated from hardrock mining to the cleanup of legacy abandoned mine lands, which currently number approximately 38,000 hazardous features within park areas.
Modernizing the current claim system by creating limits on speculation, eliminating certain barriers to alternative uses of public lands.
Enhancing coordination among mining proponents and all relevant federal, Tribal, and state agencies, including the National Park Service. This includes meaningful, thorough and early consultation with Tribal Nations, coupled with the provision of adequate resources for effective collaboration.
Implementing programmatic assessment to identify lands unsuitable for mining activities due to low potential for mineral resources or identified resource development conflicts, such as cultural and sacred sites and resources. This process should involve appropriate consultation with Tribes and relevant agencies like the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.