By Alan Caruba
A news release from Earthworks, yet another of the hundreds, if not thousands, of environmental groups heralded a vote by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee today approving “a major rewrite of the badly outdated 1872 Mining Law” prior to what it anticipates as a House floor vote “as soon as next week” with the prediction that H.R. 2262 will pass.
This bill will put a variety of obstacles in the path of any mining for any natural resources that exist in the nation, whether it be coal, gold, iron or any of the many other valuable minerals that a technologically advanced society and economy depends upon.
“It applies to hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands,” says Earthworks, noting that the 1872 Mining Law as originally intended to “spur the nation’s westward expansion, makes mining the ‘highest and best use’ of public lands’” and most certainly contributed to the nation’s economic success in the century that followed and to this day. No mining, no minerals. This isn’t rocket science.
The federal government owns millions of acres of “public lands” including much of Nevada and Alaska, as just two examples. This, of course, runs contrary to the central concept of private property that was a keystone of the Constitution. It also accounts for the catastrophic wildfires that in the past and currently have destroyed acres of mismanaged forest and adjacent developed areas. The State of Georgia is experiencing a water crisis as billions of water from that State is drained off into Florida by the Corps of Engineers for “endangered species.”
Earthworks is devoted to “conservation”, but the original conservationists did not include the concept of not mining, not engaging in timber harvesting, not grazing livestock, or any of the other elements of a thriving economy. They believed, for the most part, that certain parts of the nation’s natural wonders should be preserved for the use and enjoyment of future generations. In some cases, places like the Grand Canyon and others were kept intact for just that purpose.
H.R. 2262, however, expands the power of federal land managers to prohibit mining in favor of other uses such as hunting, fishing, and recreation. New mines would be prohibited if they were determined to pose water pollution hazards. This makes sense, but it should be a real, not imagined, hazard.
At a time when the nation is trying to reduce its deficit, the bill would start a fund of $50 billion for “cleanup of America’s hundreds of thousands of abandoned hardrock mines.” What kind of cleanup is hard to imagine. Simply sealing off access would seem sufficient to most people. Spending $50 billion dollars for such an effort when there are so many other more pressing needs, such as repair and upgrade of the nation’s infrastructure of roads and bridges, is wasteful.
The bill, said Earthworks, would “protect core wildlife, roadless national forest lands, wild and scenic rivers from irresponsible mining.” Let’s be honest. Any kind of mining is regarded as irresponsible by environmentalists. Every square mile of America is regarded as scenic.
This proposed bill is just another economy-killer if it is enacted into law and when consumers discover they are paying more and more for everything that requires the United States to import minerals for the manufacture of everything that may occur to them, but it will be too late.