WASHINGTON, February 22, 2022 — The Department of the Interior today announced that it will launch a new interagency working group on reforming hardrock mining laws, regulations and permitting policies in the United States. The group, which will inform potential rulemaking efforts on mining, will help support President Biden’s vision for a whole-of-government effort to promote the sustainable and responsible domestic production of critical minerals.
The formation of the interagency working group follows a recommendation to form a workgroup focused on mining laws and regulations from the 100-Day Reports that were produced under Executive Order 14017 on America’s Supply Chains.
“If we’re going to meet the needs of the clean energy economy while respecting our obligations to Tribal Nations, Western communities, taxpayers, the environment, and future generations, we need an all-of-government approach and the input of all Americans to make sure mining in this country is sustainable, responsible, and efficient,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The 150th anniversary of the Mining Law of 1872 is a great opportunity to take a hard look at how we regulate and permit mining in this country. We look forward to working with our federal partners to update mining policies to reflect our current realities.”
Hardrock mining on public lands — which includes gold, silver, copper, uranium, lithium, and nearly all critical minerals — is still governed by the General Mining Law of 1872, a law born out of the California Gold Rush that allows mining companies to stake claims on the vast majority of public lands regardless of potential conflicts with other uses. The law does not require royalties to be paid to the taxpayer for the extraction and sale of valuable minerals, and does not include any environmental, reclamation or financial assurance provisions.
The working group will bring together experts in mine permitting and environmental law to review existing mining laws, regulations and permitting processes. It will make recommendations for improvements necessary to ensure that new production meets strong environmental and community and Tribal engagement standards during all stages of mine development, from initial exploration through reclamation, while improving the efficiency and outcomes of the permitting process, consistent with the newly released Biden-Harris Administration’s Fundamental Principles for Domestic Mining Reform. The working group will also assess the content and effectiveness of mining governance structures in other jurisdictions and identify potential best practices that could be adopted by the United States.
In the coming months, the working group will convene a series of roundtables designed to receive comments and feedback from Tribal Nations, state and local governments, environmental justice groups, labor organizations, the mining industry, environmental and conservation groups, outdoor recreation interests, scientists, legal experts, and others. Additional information about these roundtables, and instructions on how to participate, will be provided in the Federal Register.