Legislative and Regulatory Update
November 2021 by Scott Harn
• Senators object to “Build Back Better” royalty provisions
The House reconciliation bill valued at $3.5 trillion that is part of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan included provisions that would withdraw additional public lands from mineral entry and institute a royalty system for hard rock mines.
House Natural Resources Committee chairman Raul Grijalva (R-Arizona) included a provision that would require an 8% royalty on all new mines and a 4% royalty on all existing mines. An additional seven cent tax would be charged for every ton of material displaced, whether that material had any value or not.
But during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Senators from both parties objected to the inclusion of such a scheme in the reconciliation bill.
National Mining Association executive vice president Katie Sweeney warned that excessive fees and taxes would force some American operators to close, impact US jobs, and increase reliance on countries that are not friendly to US interests.
“Moving this type of reform through a short-term budget process would create uncertainty for the industry, an industry that supports thousands of jobs,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada).
Barrick Gold general counsel Rich Haddock said his company was willing to consider a federal royalty system, but it should be based on the model used in Nevada that is based on net royalties. Using this method, mining companies would be allowed to deduct operating costs including the cost of processing minerals.
“I would urge us to not take quite the zealous approach that the House of Representatives took but to find a fair and transparent way for taxpayers to be compensated for these minerals,” said Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico).
Based on the Senate hearing, it appeared there was enough opposition to prevent Grivalja’s royalty plan from being included in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
• Biden reverses Utah monument reductions
President Biden signed several proclamations to reverse former President Trump’s decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
The monuments had been created or expanded by former President Obama utilizing the Antiquities Act.
The Act states that the President has authority to set aside public lands but those lands must be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
Trump labeled the monuments “massive land grabs” that “should never have happened” without the support of legislators in Utah, and he significantly reduced the size of the monuments.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox said the move by Biden was “disappointing, though not surprising.”
Utah Senator Mitt Romney was also against the action taken by Biden. Romney stated, “Utah’s national monuments are being used as a political football between administrations.”
There is a strong possibility this football game is not over. Without any legislative action to clarify or rescind the Antiquities Act, which was originally established in 1906, the next Republican administration may just reverse the Biden decision.
• Eco-terrorist confirmed
Unfortunately, Tracy Stone-Manning was confirmed as the director of the Bureau of Land Management on September 30.
The Senate voted to confirm Stone-Manning along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
Stone-Manning was accused of lying to the FBI, Forest Service investigators and Senators as they investigated her involvement in a tree-spiking scheme which took place in 1989 in Idaho when she was part of the eco-terrorist group EarthFirst.
Stone-Manning escaped jail time when she testified against her coconspirators in 1993 as part of an immunity deal. She is now the head of the largest public lands agency in America.
• Additional access restrictions proposed in Arizona
• Oregon senators introduce bill to place state rivers and streams off-limits
Thomas Tierney has been a long-time subscriber to ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal and has read about the many battles between miners and overzealous regulators. Then he faced his own battle.
On Tuesday morning, August 26, 2010, my clients Michael and Linda Backlund were forced to plead guilty to a charge of violating 36 CFR §261.10(b), which criminalizes maintaining a residence on Forest Service land without authorization “when such authorization is required.” This is a new regulation pursuant to which virtually anything, even a tent, is an unlawful “residence” unless authorized in advance.
Keep in mind there are specific steps that must be taken to get your traditional mining district organized if it has fallen into disarray.
• Congress heading into summer recess
• Maintenance fees due!
• BLM claim fees rise
• Critical minerals bill
• Sage-grouse habitat
Another California Assembly member, Jared Huffman, is attempting to ban dredging in the state on a more permanent basis.
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