Democrats in the U.S. Senate on November 5, 2015 proposed new fees for mines on federal land to help pay for cleaning up sites such as Colorado’s inactive Gold King Mine, where 3 million gallons of wastewater spilled into rivers that run through three states.
The senators want to revise an 1872 federal law to include a reclamation fee on all hard rock mines, new and existing. Hard rock mining generally includes gold, silver, copper and other minerals.
The reclamation fee would raise about $100 million a year, but total cleanup costs will be in the tens of billions of dollars for thousands of sites, they said.
“We’re still basically giving away land to multinational mining corporations,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, one of the sponsors. “Coal, oil and gas companies have paid royalties for many decades. Hard rock mining companies should do the same.”
“If this bill had been law before the Gold King Mine waste disaster, the Animas River might never have been polluted, and downstream communities in Colorado and New Mexico might never have suffered,” said Jennifer Krill, Earthworks executive director.