Mining: There's a reform-blocking rider

  It's not easy fighting mines. Under the 1872 General Mining Law, mining is the "highest and best use" of federal public lands, and every anti-mine effort is an uphill battle. But buried in the Bureau of Land Management code of regulations is a glimmer of good news for activists: a directive to the secretary of Interior to avoid "unnecessary and undue degradation" of public lands by mining. This rule, referred to as 3809, has not been revised since it was first released in 1981, and the nonprofit Mineral Policy Center wants to see it get tougher. The group is leading a push to revise the rule, supporting stricter cleanup requirements for public-lands mines and fat penalties for badly behaved mining companies. The BLM released a new version of the rule in August, including some of these reforms, but a rider in the 1999 Interior Appropriations Bill would block the review of 3809 for at least two years. Supporters of the rider say that a study by the National Academy of Sciences is needed before any reforms can go forward.

The BLM's proposed revision of the rule can be found on the Web at For more information, contact the Mineral Policy Center at 1612 K Street NW, Suite 808, Washington, DC 20006, (202/887-1872), or send e-mail to [email protected]

* Michelle Nijhuis

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