According to the U.S. National Mining Association (NMA), the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has proposed a new 12.5% net smelter return royalty on production from future hard rock mines on public lands, a $0.07/ton reclamation fee on displaced material on all hard rock mines, and the elimination of a patenting option with no provision for securing title and tenure.
The NMA explained that, among other unacceptable provisions of H.R. 3446, dubbed the “Fair Payment for Energy and Mineral Production on Public Lands Act” posted on Markey’s website last week, is broad new discretion for the Secretary of the Interior to unilaterally disapprove mining projects irrespective of their compliance with current laws (“mine veto”). There is also a provision for secretarial authority to grant withdrawal petitions submitted by states, Indian tribes and others except under exceptional “national interest” conditions, and the creation of new, redundant environmental standards. These and other features are found under Title V on hard rock mining reform and Title VI addressing abandoned mine reclamation.
The legislation is very similar to Rep. Nick Rahall’s (D-W.Va.) bill (H.R. 699) introduced last Congress, except for a higher royalty fee, the absence of a royalty on current operations and language implementing the president’s budget proposals for AML funding.
Markey’s measure also fulfills the president’s plan for addressing abandoned coal mine reclamation. He would accomplish this by amending the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to terminate unrestricted payments to states and Indian tribes that have been certified as completing coal reclamation work; and by altering the distribution of reclamation funds to distribute 80% of funds collected through a competitive grant process for reclaiming priority abandoned coal sites.
Early this month, the Senate passed a bill by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to allow certified states and tribes use of coal AML funds for non-coal reclamation projects and acid mine remediation programs.