Dem bill would force mining companies to pay royalty fees

Dem bill would force mining companies to pay royalty fees

Congressional Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday to reform the nation’s antiquated hardrock mining laws.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallBureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Hillicon Valley: Twitter to refuse all political ads | Trump camp blasts 'very dumb' decision | Ocasio-Cortez hails move | Zuckerberg doubles down on Facebook's ad policies | GOP senator blocks sweeping election reform bill MORE (D-N.M.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars MORE (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) are introducing the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 to update the current laws that date back to 1872 and allow mining companies to take gold, silver and uranium from public lands without paying royalties.

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“The current mining laws date back to when the West was first being settled and we’re still giving away land to multimillion-dollar mining companies,” Udall said in a call with reporters Thursday.

The legislation will require companies to pay royalty fees on minerals extracted from new and existing mines. The fees for new mines will be between 2 and 5 percent, based on market value. 

Miners will also be required to pay an abandoned mine reclamation fee between .2 to 6 percent for cleanup on abandoned mines.

“Mining companies have enjoyed as sweetheart deal for far too long,” Udall said. “It’s about time taxpayers got their fair share.”

Lawmakers said the reclamation feels are expected to generate $100 million annually. How much will come from the royalty fees, however, is unknown. Udall said miners are not required under current law to disclose how much they extract.

The legislation comes three months after 3 million gallons of mine waste spilled out of the Gold King Mine into a tributary of the Animas River in Colorado.

“We are doing a disservice to the American people by not taking action to address the other contaminated mines throughout the Midwest,” Heinrich said.