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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• The 1872 Mining Law
Momentum has been building to make changes to the 1872 Mining Law. There has been a push to reform the 1872 Mining Law by many members of Congress. The National Mining Association and Northwest Mining Association have come out in favor of reasonable changes, including a royalty. Interior Secretary Gale Norton asked Congress to make changes to several areas in October 2001. More recently, two legislators have formed a task force to recommend changes.

Small, independent miners and larger miners alike need to get involved and take a seat at the table. Any proposed changes could largely ignore the needs and desires of small-scale operations, independent miners and mining clubs. Many larger mining companies operate on patented lands, which could allow them to avoid a royalty assessed on only public lands.

In 2001, Norton asked Congress to establish a royalty, to authorize administrative penalties, to revise the patent system, to provide states with a larger role in managing hard rock mining on public lands and to make permanent a mining claim holding fee. Congress has not acted on any of her recommendations, yet.

The current makeup of the federal government, the re-election of President Bush and the Republican gain of seats in both the House and Senate could allow for a more reasonable approach to the issues than future administrations. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) became the new Senate Minority Leader following the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle. Reid has been one of a few Democrats to strongly support mining.

Reid and Representative Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada) announced several months ago that they were forming a task force to address reforming the 1872 Mining Law, with the goal of introducing legislation next year. Any proposed legislation will likely address the changes proposed by Norton.

The 1872 Mining Law reform train appears to be leaving the station, and our recommendation is that you, or a representative of your company or group, get on board. There appears to be enough momentum that changes to the 1872 Mining Law could take place.

Those who want to get involved should contact Senator Reid’s office at (202) 224-3542 or Representative Gibbons’ office at (202) 225-6155.


• Roadless decision due soon
Mark Rey, Under Secretary of Agriculture, stated that he expects the Forest Service will issue final new planning rules by the end of this year, and a final rule on roadless areas early next year.

The comment period on the latest proposed roadless rule ended November 15. The proposal was to allow individual governors to petition the Forest Service for state control of management decisions regarding roadless areas.
 
During an interview with Public Land News, Rey stated, “We’re not asking states to develop a comprehensive proposal. We have just asked them to indicate a willingness to work with us as partners in a rulemaking and indicate to us in broad terms where they want to go.”


• MSHA Review Commission
The Federal Mine Safety Review Commission is considering changes to several procedural rules, including those dealing with appeals and requests for relief from final judgement.

The commission is also requesting comments on all procedural rules that could lead to a more efficient adjudication of cases.

The notice was published in the Federal Register and is available online at www.regulations.gov/freddocs/ 04-24023.htm

The comment deadline is January 25, 2005. Written comments can be mailed to: Thomas Stock, General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, 601 New Jersey Avenue, NW., Suite 9500, Washington, DC 20001. Persons submitting written comments shall provide an original and three copies of their comments.

Electronic comments should state “Comments on Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” in the subject line and be sent to tstock@fmshrc.gov

For more information, contact Thomas Stock at the above address, or phone (202) 434-9935.


• Sage grouse decision due soon
During an interview with The Associated Press, Interior Secretary Gale Norton touted private conservation programs for protecting the sage grouse, though she insisted that a decision on whether or not the bird should receive Endangered Species Act protection will be based on science.

Norton stated government and private conservation efforts were making great progress.

“…the question’s whether those are sufficient to maintain the species. That’s really a scientific decision,” she said.

A long-awaited decision is expected by the end of the year on whether or not the sage grouse should receive Endangered Species Act protection.

A listing could place restrictions on over 770,000 square miles encompassing 11 states.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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