US House passes bill that will add clarity for future mining projects

May 9, 2024

The U.S. House passed The Mining Regulatory Clarity Act of 2024 by a vote of 216-195, reversing a previous vote to return the bill to committee.
The bill, introduced by Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, would allow mining companies to conduct mining support operations on federal lands without valuable mineral deposits, including road maintenance, transmission lines, pipelines, and the construction of any other support facility needed at a mining site. It would undo a consequential court decision that restricted mining companies’ use of federal lands, halting the Rosemont copper project in Arizona. That court decision made it impossible for mines to locate waste rock on claims with uneconomic mineral deposits.

“Securing our domestic mineral supply chain is not only critical to our nation’s economic success, but to our national security. Now more than ever, we must ensure we are doing all that we can to increase domestic mineral production and protect the ability to conduct responsible mining activities on federal lands,” said Amodei in a statement.

Prior to the federal appeals court decision, mining companies used neighboring federal lands without valuable mineral deposits for mining related purposes – such as waste rock disposal or running power lines – without issue for decades.

The ruling — known as the “Rosemont decision” — blocked the Rosemont Copper from dumping waste rock on U.S. Forest Service land. The court ruled that while federal mining law allows companies to mine on federal land where economically valuable minerals are present, they are not guaranteed the right to use federal land without valuable minerals as a dumping site.

Despite support from Arkansas Republican and House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman, the bill faced some hurdles during the first vote when six members of Amodei’s own party joined Democrats to block the bill.

The Nevada Current reported that lawmakers did not make changes to the bill between the May 1 vote and Wednesday, but the presence of several Republicans who were absent for the first allowed the measure to pass on the second attempt.

Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota, who chairs the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources and led Republican floor debate, called the bill a benefit to domestic mining interests and a correction of the Rosemont decision.

“This is a simple fix,” Stauber said. “We believe the court erred, so it’s our job to legislate.”

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto praised House approval of the bill, and called for the Senate to move quickly on companion legislation she and Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch introduced in the Senate. Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is also a cosponsor of the Senate companion bill, along with Senate Republicans Mike Crapo of Idaho and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“Without a fix, the Rosemont decision could upend existing and future mining projects, threatening thousands of jobs in Nevada and across the West. I’ll continue to stand up for our communities and for our clean energy future,” said Cortez Masto in a statement.

Cortez Masto has argued that restricting mining companies from using public land that does not contain economically valuable minerals for waste storage or processing is “misguided.”

In Nevada, the Rosemont decision has proved consequential to the mining industry, which enjoys broad use of public lands under the 150-year-old General Mining Law, unlike other extractive industries.

In the case of a planned molybdenum mine by Nevada-based developer Eureka Moly LLC, a district court judge vacated the 2019 Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the project after ruling the developer did not have the right to dump waste rock on federal land without valuable mineral deposits.

The new stricter interpretation of the 150-year-old General Mining Law under the federal appeals court ruling also affects what may potentially become the largest lithium mine in the United States, the Thacker Pass project south of the Nevada-Oregon border. Last year, a district judge cited the Arizona ruling when determining that federal land managers violated federal law when they approved the mine developer’s plan to bury 1,300 acres of public land under waste rock.



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