Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pressing Need for Reform in Mineral Extraction Laws

Many US mining laws are over 100 years old. They allow miners and energy companies to extract wealth while pushing the environmental and health externalities of their operations onto government, local populations, and future generations.

Mining firm profits from public lands remain a mystery, new GAO study shows. The  Washington Post. By , Published: December 11

[Excerpted] The federal government has no idea how much gold, copper and other hard-rock minerals are being extracted from public lands each year — nor how much the minerals are worth — because the companies licensed to operate the mines pay no royalties, according to a report the Government Accountability Office will make public Wednesday.

The new report, requested by Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), could spur a renewed push to reform the 140-year-old law governing U.S. hard-rock mining. Under the General Mining Act of 1872, the government charges mining companies $189 to locate a claim and then $140 annually to maintain it after the first year. What the companies extract from public terrain is theirs to sell on the open market....

...Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, said the industry is now focused on making it easier to extract rare-earth metals and other strategic minerals by speeding up federal permitting and reducing potential lawsuits.

 Majia here: This is really insane. The companies get to extract minerals - no doubt with substantial environmental externalities - and pay NO royalties to the government.

The situation in Florence AZ illustrates the insanity of the current mining regulatory system:

The Arizona Republic covers the story in "Debate Rages Over Mine Project" Nov 12, 2012 p. B1 by C. Harris.
The article explains that a Canadian company - Curtis Resources - wants to open a mine that will inject sulfuric acid under the ground to leach copper from the soil.

Curtis Resources "purchased property near the geographic center of Florence and secured a mineral lease on unincorporated state trust land that is surrounded by the municipality."

The Town Council of Florence voted it down because of concerns about the environmental/health impacts. But, the town has no jurisdiction over state trust land. And so the battle rages.
Can you imagine how you would feel if a mining company starts injecting sulfuric acid into your land adjacent to your home?

Propublica has an excellent article addressing the environmental risks to the nation's water supplies as a consequence of lax mining and energy extraction laws.

Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply by Abrahm Lustgarten ProPublica, Dec. 11, 2012, 12:01

[Excerpted] Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds....

...As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.  

 ...Advances in geological sciences have deepened regulators' concerns about exemptions, challenging the notion that waste injected underground will stay inside the tightly drawn boundaries of the exempted areas.
Majia here: This Propublica article in injection of toxic mining solvents into the ground and their contamination of fresh water aquifers is a VERY IMPORTANT article and I recommend reading the entire article.

I have been following the environmental impact of fracking and injection wells for some time and I believe they pose a direct, irreversible threat to the US water supply. No nation will survive long without access to fresh water. Our survival as a nation and people is at issue here.

Examples of previous posts...

Dec 04, 2012
Below are two articles that explore two ways fracking is destroying our environment. The first concerns the role of fracking in producing massive sink holes that may contain dangerous waste. This first article also addresses the ...

Dec 05, 2012
A year-old Texas law that requires drillers to disclose chemicals they pump underground during hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” was powerless to compel transparency for EXP- F0173-11. The solvent and several other ...

Dec 01, 2012
[Excerpted] Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene—compounds associated with drilling and fracking, and ...

Nov 27, 2012
[Excerpted] Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has warned Longmont residents that the ban is likely to mean a lawsuit from the state, which insists that only it has the authority to regulate drilling. Already this summer ...

Oct 24, 2012
Earthquake-Causing Fracking to Be Allowed within 500 FEET of Nuclear Plants. Posted on October 22, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog. Posted by Majia's Blog at 9:40 AM · Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook ...

Aug 15, 2012
Transparency in Natural Gas Fracking: NOT! Fracking Hazards Obscured in Failure to Disclose Wells By Benjamin Haas, Jim Polson, Phil Kuntz and Ben Elgin - Aug 14, 2012 ...

Jul 10, 2012
Though the fluids were natural and not the byproduct of drilling or hydraulic fracturing, the finding further stokes the red-hot controversy over fracking in the Marcellus Shale, suggesting that drilling waste and chemicals could ...

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