Longtime U.S. mining political activist Debra Struhsacker warned Monday the Senate bill mining law reform bill introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, is a Trojan Horse.
In a speech Monday to the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), Struhsacker, a Reno-based environmental and government affairs consultant, said Senate bill 796 is less explicit than the House mining law reform bill of House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia.
A co-founder of the Women's Mining Coalition which has lobbied about mining law legislation on behalf of the mining industry Struhsacker has testified in opposition to HR 699, the Rahall version of mining law reform. She asserts the Bingaman bill will create problems which are similar to the Rahall bill.
At first glance, S 796 seems better for mining than HR 699, Struhsacker said. However, she advised the Senate bill calls for the development of new operating and reclamation rules which could eventually achieve the same results as the more punitive HR699.
Like the House bill, S 796 would eliminate security of tenure for miners and explorationists, and enacts a new duplicative permitting process, Struhsacker explained. Although the Senate bill would defer key mining regulatory decisions to future rulemaking, she warned the rulemaking process can be just as dangerous for us.
The vague royalty definitions contained in S 796 also concerns Struhsacker.
In Struhsacker's opinion, the mining industry wants the following from legislation pertaining to mining law:
• Reduce uncertainty for mining and exploration companies• Provide a stable business climate for mining investment• Produce a reliable supply of minerals• Collect a royalty that provides a fair return to the public• Guarantee security of land tenure in lieu of the current patenting system• Keep public lands open for mining• Create a robust fund for clean-up of abandoned minesStruhsacker told the audience of engineers, geologists and mining service professionals that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is also uncomfortable with the Bingaman bill. In a recently published commentary published in Nevada newspapers, but not distributed to Mineweb, Reid said Bingaman's proposal is more moderate than proposals that have been seen in the House of Representatives in recent years, but it still needs work.
I have made it clear to my fellow senators that I stand ready to engage in this important debate as long as our goal is to find a reasonable middle ground and to protect the long-term interests of Nevada's mining families, he added.
During my time in Congress, I have fought against and defeated many ill-conceived reform efforts that would have hurt rural Nevada. Reform is still possible, though, as long as it strikes the careful balance we need to keep our mining towns humming and our environment properly protected.
Long-term certainty for our mining towns and mining families is the key. If my colleagues want to have a discussion that heads down that path, I am ready to do so, Reid concluded.