On Thursday, May 9, 2019, Congressman Raul Grijalva’s (D-AZ) bill HR2579 to reform the 1872 Mining Law was introduced at a sub-committee of the House Natural Resources Committee. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) also introduced a Senate version.
Earthworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions, organized community activists from around the United
States to be in Washington, DC for the hearing on HR2579. Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (PARA) Board Member Carolyn Shafer was part of one of the teams lobbying federal elected officials for support of the reform bill.
Lobbying for reform of the 1872 Mining Law was a whirlwind adventure of visiting key legislators to share the reality of the impact of this almost 150-year-old law that allows the free giveaway of mineral resources and leaves taxpayers with the clean-up costs for toxic sites left by mining companies. According to EPA estimates, there are more than 500,000 old mining sites nationwide in need of about $50 billion of remediation work. There are hundreds of abandoned, toxic mining sites in need of remediation in the Patagonia Mountains.
There were several teams of community activists each with their own list of legislators to visit. Shafer, with the team that included Tohono O’odham Tribal Chairman Edward
Manuel, retired US Forest Service employee and former gold miner Alan Anderson, and Aaron Mintzes, Earthworks Senior Policy Counsel, visited about a dozen legislators from various states to explain why reforming the 1872 Mining Law is important.
PARA’s statement begins: “We the People of 2019 are being greatly harmed by the antiquated 1872 Mining Law. We the People of 2019 have no voice to speak for the ecosystem that is in harm’s way if a mining company “owns” 450 acres of patented, private land on which it can mount an underground mine with the intention to blast large tunnels under 23,000 acres of unpatented claims on Forest Service public lands.” The full statement was entered into the Congressional Record and is available on PARA’s website.
The system is a highly orchestrated process to stand up and speak out in the “Halls of Congress.” As AZ Senator Krysten Sinema’s legislative aide said, “Elected representatives need to hear from their constituents.”