1998 Scorecard Vote
The modern hardrock mining industry operates on an enormous scale. Modern pit mines cover hundreds of acres, and can be hundreds of feet deep. Large amounts of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and sulfuric acid are sprayed over piles of pulverized rock to dissolve hardrock minerals in the open environment. Given the scale and techniques of this industry, mining operations often pollute entire watersheds, contaminating surface and ground water with heavy metals and other toxics. Environmental cleanup costs for individual mines can run into the tens of millions of dollars.
Current oversight of hardrock mining on public lands is a patchwork of state and federal regulations that do little to prevent environmental degradation. When considering mining permits, current regulations mandate that land management agencies approve proposed mines as the best use of the public's land, regardless of its ecological importance. Current regulations also have inadequate bonding provisions, allowing mining companies to abandon depleted mines and leave taxpayers with the cleanup costs.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is attempting to improve this regulatory patchwork by strengthening its oversight of hard rock mining on public lands. Originally issued in 1981, hard rock mining regulations have not been revised to reflect the modern pit mining techniques that often result in polluting entire watersheds.
During Senate consideration of S. 2237, the Fiscal Year 1999 Interior appropriations bill, Senators Dale Bumpers (D-AR), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) offered an amendment to remove language from the bill which would block BLM's proposed reforms for at least 2 years. On September 15, 1998, Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) offered a motion to table (kill) the Bumpers amendment. The motion passed 58 - 40, leaving the delaying language intact. NO is the pro-environment vote.