The 1872 Mining Law is evil. It gives mining companies cheap and privileged access to public land, and makes it virtually impossible for anyone, including the gov’t, to stop them from grabbing it (yet another cost of mining that gets offloaded onto the public). Attempts to get rid of or update the absurdly archaic and destructive statute have long been blocked by legislators from mining states.
Among them is Harry Reid (D-Nev.), now the majority leader in the Senate, who spent the ’90s furiously battling his fellow Senators on behalf of the hard-rock mining business in his state. Says the AP:
Reid got more than $100,000 in donations from the mining industry between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mining is a $5 billion industry in Nevada and is especially crucial to the economy outside of Las Vegas.
Says Reid, “We had people then that were more interested in destroying hard-rock mining." Got that? Forcing the mining industry to pay market price for land and obey the nation’s environmental laws would "destroy" it. But if it can’t survive without privileged treatment, why should it survive at all? Is destroying the landscape and polluting the atmosphere really a fair exchange for a few thousand jobs in the rural West? For the amount of money that’s been devoted to the industry, we easily could have created public service jobs for every one of those miners. But no, that would be social engineering!
Anyway, I bring all this up because House Dems are introducing a bill today to try to reform the law, and it could lead to a clash with Reid in the Senate. The situation is aptly summarized in the AP piece:
Nevada political analysts said Reid will accept reform — but nothing the mining industry can’t live with.
A little reminder that industry shilling is not confined to any one party, house, or level of gov’t.
PS: Even the CEO of Tiffany & Co. agrees that the law needs an update.
PPS: See also this post from Seattle P-I‘s Robert McClure, who’s done as much as anyone to report on this law.