When the Bureau of Land Management announced in early May that it would hold forums around the West before changing its mining regulations, both mine operators and mining opponents rallied their troops. GREEN, a program of Defenders of Wildlife, sent an e-mail asking environmentalists to attend the scoping meetings "if it is humanly possible." Laura Skaer, president of the Northwest Mining Association, sent out an alert by fax: "Environmental activists are encouraging their supporters to attend. We must outnumber them."
did outnumber citizen activists, at some meetings by a ratio of
4-to-1, and the mood was pro-industry, says the Mineral Policy
Center's Aimee Boulanger. When an activist at the Phoenix, Ariz.,
meeting suggested that mines should not be allowed to alter public
land, "the room exploded with yells, boos, hisses, outrage," she
Industry groups see no reason to change the
current regulations that require hardrock mining companies to use
the best available technologies to prevent "unnecessary or undue
damage" to public lands. Environmentalists point out that, since
the rules were established in 1983, hardrock mines have continued
to leak cyanide and kill rivers with acid mining
The move to reform mining on BLM land
came from Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who directed the BLM to
rewrite its regulations after Congress refused to reform the 1872
Mining Law. The BLM will use the comments from eight meetings for
its rewrite, due in 1998.
An earlier attempt to
change one regulation may flop. The Northwest Mining Association is
suing the BLM for revising its bonding regulations without
soliciting public comment since 1991.