Mining rules put industry on rocky ground

  California has two new regulations that industry officials say could spell the end of gold-mining in the Golden State.

On April 7, Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill requiring mining companies to fill in open-pit mines near sacred Indian sites on federal lands, once they have completed mining. The same week, the California State Mining and Geology Board enacted similar rules for pits on state and private lands.

The decisions are in response to the Bush administration’s reversal of mining rules enacted by the Clinton administration. Those rules would have given federal agencies the power to deny mining proposals that would cause "substantial irreparable harm" to the environment or sacred Indian sites (HCN, 11/19/01: Mining reform gets the shaft). "Some states are starting to realize, since the federal government dropped the ball on mining regulation, they have to step up to the plate," says Roger Flynn, director of the Western Mining Action Project, a nonprofit law center. The new rules put all new gold projects in jeopardy, according to industry officials.

Chuck Jeannes, the senior vice president of the Glamis Gold company, says the new laws will make his company’s proposed mine on an area sacred to the Quechan Indian Nation economically infeasible (HCN, 12/17/01: Gold may bury tribe's path to its past). But Jeannes says the project’s decade-long battle is not over. "(We) have a $15 million investment," he says, "and I don’t expect we’ll just walk away."
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