On 150th Anniversary Of 1872 Mining Law, Biden-Harris Administration Convenes Representatives from States, Tribes, The Mining Industry, Environmental Groups, Legal Experts to Discuss Much Needed Reform to Outdated Law

Yesterday, the White House convened over 20 representatives from states, Tribes, the mining industry, environmental groups, labor unions, automakers, legal experts, and other stakeholders on the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Mining Law of 1872 to discuss the need for reforms and improvements to establish strong, 21st Century environmental and engagement standards that would allow for the responsible and sustainable development of domestic hardrock minerals.

This meeting was the first external engagement of the Department of Interior-led Interagency Working Group on Mining Regulations, Laws, and Permitting, which is charged with providing recommendations to Congress on how to reform the mining law to ensure new production meets strong environmental standards throughout the lifecycle of the project, ensure meaningful community consultation and consultation with Tribal nations, and reduce the time, cost, and risk of mine permitting.  Additional stakeholder meetings will be held over the coming months, and comments can also be submitted in response to the Request for Information that was issued by the Department of the Interior on March 31. Comments can be made through July 31, 2022 at Regulations.gov.

Participants discussed the shared benefits, challenges, and opportunities of reforming the current system. The General Mining Law of 1872 governs the extraction of critical and valuable minerals on federal lands across the country, and has remained fundamentally unchanged since Ulysses S. Grant signed it to promote westward expansion. The law does not require royalties to be paid to the taxpayers for the extraction and sale of valuable minerals, does not include any environmental, reclamation or financial assurance provisions, and fails to have a single department in charge of mining, leaving stakeholders and companies to navigate a morass of systems and laws. As we grow the clean energy economy, critical minerals for electric vehicles, large capacity batteries, wind turbines, and other clean energy technologies, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, are projected to increase in demand by 400-600% in the coming decades. The current global supply chains for these minerals too often fail to adhere to strong social and environmental standards, despite the demands of the end customers and companies. Creating a modern legal framework for the socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable mining and production of these minerals is essential to the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to strengthen our critical supply chains; the administration issued principles for mining reform in February to guide this effort.   

After participating in the convening, participants ranging from companies, Tribes, environmental groups, trade groups, experts, and labor unions all highlighted the importance of the discussion and common goals to improve the current system:

Tom Palmer, President and CEO, Newmont Corporation: “Newmont Corporation was honored to be a part of today’s discussion with the White House on modernizing the General Mining Law. This historic gathering of diverse stakeholders, including federal and state government agencies and representatives, Native American leaders, Labor, NGOs, Academia, and consumers provided a rare opportunity to discuss updates to the Federal regulatory system to incentivize responsible domestic metals and minerals mining in a challenging global environment. We appreciate the Administration convening this productive session and initiating the discussion on the future of mining in the United States. We look forward to Newmont’s continued participation and collaboration.” 

Jennifer Krill, Executive Director, Earthworks: “Meeting the President’s climate and environmental justice goals depends on a shift in the way we source and use minerals. To ensure that our emerging clean energy system is not built on dirty mining, we must reform the rules of the road for mining and invest in creating a sustainable minerals economy. On this 150th anniversary of the 1872 Mining Law, Earthworks looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration and a broad group of stakeholders to promote a rapid, just, and equitable renewable energy transition using responsibly sourced materials.”

Joe Britton, Executive Director, Zero Emission Transportation Association: “We had a great conversation today with a diverse array of federal, tribal, electric vehicle and critical mineral stakeholders committed to climate action, sustainable economies, and conservation. There was strong consensus on the need to both encourage community consultation and take action that reflects the urgency of responsibly procuring the critical minerals needed for climate solution technologies. ZETA thanks the Biden-Harris Administration for leading these tough discussions and looks forward to making progress on the decarbonization needed to make us all better off.”

Rich Nolan, President and CEO, National Mining Association: “The NMA was pleased today to join the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group on mining law reform at the White House. The strength of the U.S. economy depends on mining, and industry stands ready to work with the government to find a productive path forward that will help reshore essential supply chains, reduce our mineral import overreliance and build the materials industrial base needed to underpin the energy transition and the EV revolution. We look forward to continuing to contribute to the work of this important group.”

Sam Penney, Chairman, Nez Perce: “The Nez Perce Tribe appreciates the White House convening the mining reform meeting today. Listening to the various perspectives of states, Tribes, and stakeholders is an important initial step. Protection of treaty reserved rights and upholding federal trust responsibility are critical aspects of mining reform.

Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation: “Responsibly mined critical minerals are essential for our clean energy future and our national security — and it’s time that we finally move our 19th century laws into the 21st century. President Biden and his administration have made it clear that they are serious about responsibly producing a secure domestic supply of critical minerals through reclamation, recycling, and new mining, while fully supporting communities and workers, remediating abandoned mines, and addressing the impacts on clean drinking water, lands, and wildlife and people alike.”

Mark Bristow, President & CEO, Barrick: “Barrick and Nevada Gold Mines value being part of the discussions today and look forward to continued collaboration with the federal government and other stakeholders. We support the initiative to improve the permitting process and regulatory regime with the objective of ensuring responsible mining of minerals and metals in the United States of America.”

John Ruple, Professor of Law (Research) & Wallace Stegner Center Fellow, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah: “The 150-year-old General Mining Law is like driving a stagecoach, and it’s time to trade in the stagecoach for an electric vehicle. Today’s meeting included a broad representation of mining stakeholders—from multinational mining corporations, to Tribes and environmentalists, to organized labor and academia—universally, we agree on the value in updating the 150-year-old general mining law to increase the supply of strategic minerals and an opportunity to improve environmental stewardship and collaboration with Native Nations. I am honored to work with the Biden-Harris Administration on efforts to bring mining law into the 21st century and to secure for America the critical minerals that we need for a transition to renewable energy in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Yvette Pena-O’Sullivan, Executive Director of the Office of the President, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA): “I was pleased to be a part of the White House’s convening of stakeholders from labor, industry, environment, and tribal communities to discuss mining reform and remediation.  Today’s meeting was an important step forward to securing a safe and domestic supply chain for critical minerals.  The hard-working men and women of LIUNA who work on mineral mining projects too often have their livelihoods put on hold as permits are stalled due to outdated policies and a legal framework that dates to the 1870s. LIUNA commends the Biden-Harris Administration’s leadership in charting a new strategy on critical minerals that can help our nation build a vibrant clean energy economy responsibly.” 

Jason Walsh, Executive Director, BlueGreen Allilance: “As we work to grow the clean economy, demand for mined materials—such as copper, lithium, and nickel, as well as other minerals, metals, and rare earths—is only going to increase. We need a new national commitment to responsible mining and the reclamation and recycling of these minerals and materials. And we have to do this in ways that uphold our obligations to workers, communities, and the environment. We appreciate the administration convening this important conversation and we look forward to continuing to discuss and advance this issue with our partners.”


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