NWMA laments layoffs, land use rift

Members of the Northwest Mining Association (NWMA) gathered recently in this western city to attend the 101st annual meeting and speculate on the future direction of the mining industry.

For many of the 3,600 attendees, speculation took the form of brooding. Delegates expressed concern about the recent shutdown of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the ongoing wrangling over the 1812 Mining Law.

The industry is still recovering from the shock of having 1,200 scientists laid off from the Bureau, and many are wondering what will become of the myriad of services that the department provided.

A counter was set up outside the exhibition hall to help former Bureau personnel with their resumes.

The political fallout over the Mining Law was a common topic as well.

In a televised conference, Idaho Senator Lawrence Craig (R) and Nevada Senator Henry Reid (D) criticized Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt for his opposition to federal mining law provisions. “It’s very, very hurtful for investment considerations, and I don’t think it’s good for the President,” Craig said.

William Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, gave a luncheon address on the question of land usage in the western states. He explained how the land usage debate is pitting state citizens and officials against the federal government, which controls most of the region’s land base.

The controversy surrounding the proposed New World gold mine near Yellowstone Park was also discussed. Joseph Baylis, president of Crown Butte Mines, outlined the company’s proposals and experiences in light of attempts by the environmental lobby and the federal government to undermine the project.

Baylis expressed concern over attempts made by agencies outside the federal government to disrupt the federally accepted National Environmental Policy Act.

He went on to criticize the World Heritage Committee, which is currently meeting in Paris, France, to decide whether the project poses a threat and whether the park should be classified a “world heritage site in danger.” He said he refuses to accept the committee as a legitimate source for scientific review, adding: “We do not believe any outside group should sit in judgment on the environmental impact statement process.”

Yet while these events have cast a perceptible shadow over activities in North America, opportunities overseas appear to be bright.

In a news conference during the meeting, NWMA President Wallace McGregor signed a memorandum of understanding with Zheng Song Yan, general manager of Fujian Provincial Coal and member of the China Coal Industry ministry. In the memo, each pledged to work toward closer economic relations to the benefit of all parties.

Delegates from Sweden, Denmark, Greenland, Indonesia and South Africa were present, along with representatives from more than 15 other countries.

Other topics of discussion included the recent merger of BHP and Magma, and Barrick Gold’s new Nevada acquisition.


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