The Biden-Harris administration wants to update a 151-year-old mining law that would force miners to pay royalties for their gold and copper extractions.
In a report authored by the administration’s interagency working group on mining laws, regulations and permitting, it was suggested a 4 per cent to 8 per cent net royalty on hardrock minerals produced on federal lands.
On Wednesday, the administration said it recommends modernizing the 1872 Mining Law as part of its goals of increasing domestic supplies of critical minerals as well as upholding new environmental, labour and community engagement standards.
“The rapid buildout of a clean energy economy is fueling a significant increase in demand for responsibly sourced critical minerals that power everything from consumer electronics to electric vehicle batteries,” reads a press release from the Department of the Interior.
The fee also could pay for programs to boost mining permits, clean up abandoned mine lands and help states and tribal governments that provide infrastructure and services to mining-dependent communities.
Since 1872, the country has not collected royalties on minerals extracted from federal lands, which has been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and some environmental groups.
“Securing a safe, sustainable supply of critical minerals will support a resilient manufacturing base for technologies at the heart of the president’s investing-in-America agenda, including batteries, electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels,” said Joelle Gamble, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council.
Top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel Sen. John Barraso raised the possibility that the proposed reforms would “force” the country to buy more critical minerals from China and other countries that don’t have the same standards.
The report provides more than 60 recommendations to Congress and federal agencies, including increasing public and Indigenous engagement and protecting impacted communities and workers, as well as the lands they cherish.
It also identifies reforms to revitalize federal support for research into advanced, lower-impact mining and exploration technologies. It intends to address the legacy of abandoned and unreclaimed hardrock mining sites that continue to pollute land and water throughout the country.
Authors received input at dozens of meetings — including with industry, states, stakeholders, and the public — multiple government-to-government consultations with Indigenous groups and a review of over 26,000 comments from the mining industry, state officials, equipment manufacturers, among others.
In the report, the IWG concluded that fundamental reform of the law is necessary to achieve the best outcomes for communities impacted by mining.
“To meet the needs of the clean energy economy while respecting our obligations to Tribal Nations, taxpayers, the environment, and future generations, we need a modernized approach to make sure mining in this country is sustainable, responsible and efficient,” said IWG Chair and Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau.
“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to a whole-of-government effort in coordination with federal, state and local partners to update our mining policies and promote the sustainable and responsible domestic production of critical minerals.”