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National mining proposal buried

Nevada Republican drops controversial bill

Amid outcry from hunters, environmentalists and Western politicians, a Nevada congressman removed legislation Tuesday that would have allowed mining companies to purchase public lands.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., inserted language into budget legislation that would have ended an 11-year moratorium on mining patents.

Technicalities, not public pressure, prompted the bill’s removal, Gibbons said.



If the legislation were approved, mining companies would have been allowed to purchase public land at market value.

But opponents of the legislation said it would have allowed developers to buy public land for non-mining purposes and close it to the public.



A diverse group spoke out against the legislation, including both Colorado senators, the ski industry, hunting groups and environmentalists.

Gibbons removed the language from the budget bill Tuesday.

Gibbons pulled the legislation because it couldn’t meet parliamentary rules, said Amy Maier, a spokeswoman for the lawmaker.

The budget bill in which the mining language would have been inserted would have been in effect for five years, Maier said. But the mining language would have been in effect for more than five years, she said.

Although the moratorium on purchasing public lands won’t be lifted, Gibbons and supporters of the legislation said it had helped raise awareness about mining laws they say are overly restrictive.

“We are treading down a dangerous path as we increase our dependence on foreign sources of not only energy, but minerals,” Gibbons said in a written statement. “This entire process has brought recognition to the critical need to update mining law.”

Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said that although he was disappointed the legislation won’t be passed, he thinks mining law reform will be easier to pass in the future because of Gibbons’ legislation.

“I believe we have raised sufficient awareness among the members of Congress on the need to lift the ban on responsible mineral development,” Sanderson said.

The moratorium on mining patents makes it difficult to invest in mining in America, Sanderson said.

But opponents of the legislation said its failure would be a benefit to anyone who uses public lands.

“This is a great day for all Americans who believe that public lands belong in public hands,” said Steve Moyer, a spokesman for Trout Unlimited.

Trout Unlimited, a conservation organization, opposed the legislation all along.

The changes to mining laws should be discussed separately, not as part of a larger bill, Moyer said.

Colorado Counties Inc. also opposed the legislation, in part because it was part of a budget reconciliation bill and not a separate bill.

Larry Kallenberger, the lobbying group’s executive director, said if the legislation were presented in the future, the organization would take another look at it.

Gibbons intends to address mining laws again during the 2006 legislative session, Maier said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.


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