Editorial: US House bill targets miners; rally set for Elko

While the broad decline in stock markets in the U.S. cast a pall over North American mining investors during the week ended Aug. 11, the 32nd trading week of 2007, outside of the spotlight a much more menacing force is quickly gaining strength against anyone with an economic interest in mining in the U.S.

* Introduced on May 11, 2007, in the U.S. House of Representatives by House Natural Resource Committee chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (HR2262) will fundamentally cripple the mining industry in the U.S. if it becomes the law of the land.

The bill is deeply flawed, and hurts miners in so many ways, including: imposing an 8% net smelter return royalty on all unpatented mining claims effective on the date of enactment; imposing mandatory reviews every three years on operating permits, which would be limited to 10 years; withdrawing from mineral entry 58.5 million acres identified in the Clinton Administration Roadless Rule, and similarly withdrawing “Sacred Sites”; requiring that proposed mineral activities would protect the environment, public health and public safety from a vague “undue degradation” and recognize the value of the land for other uses, including recreation, wildlife habitat and water supply; requiring a valid mining claim to be supported by the discovery of a valuable mineral deposit in order to have any rights under the Mining Law; meeting all water quality standards within 10 years after closure without any water treatment; and authorizing citizen-led suits that will further delay permitting.

The bill can be seen in gruesome detail at www.govtrack.us.

Rick Redfern, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Mexivada Mining, which has projects in Nevada, is taking a leading role in organizing a public forum and pro-mining rally in response to the proposed mining law revision. It will be held in the afternoon of Aug. 21, 2007, in Elko, Nev., at the Elko Convention Center, following a hearing in the morning by Congressman Rahall and his committee at Elko’s Western Folklife Center.

Speakers at the afternoon event will include U.S. mining law expert Laura Skaer of the Northwest Mining Association, along with industry representatives Robert Schaefer and Ted Wilton, plus Elko and Nevada elected representatives. Organizers are trying to get Nevada Senator Harry Reid (D) to speak, in recognition that mining is his state’s second-largest employer, and are also trying to get representation from Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining.

We hope the Western U.S. mining community will come out in full force for this rally, which will help give Senator Reid the political backing he needs to take on members of his own party and defeat this bill in the Senate, as it now looks like Rahall has enough votes to pass the bill in the House.

* The Gammon Gold story got a lot uglier this week, with very disappointing financial and operational news from Mexico being revealed in its second-quarter results, which were headlined by a US$25.5 million loss.

The company has had great difficulty over the past year and a half trying to turn its Ocampo project, the site of much high-grade, small-scale mining over the years, into an industrial-scale, integrated mining complex.

* The week did have some good news from Mexico, with class act Agnico-Eagle Mines announcing a positive development decision for its wholly owned Pinos Altos gold project in northern Mexico, where reserves have been boosted by 21% since February and now stand at 2.2 million oz. from 20 million tonnes grading 3.5 grams per tonne. Pinos Altos also has 66 million oz. of silver in reserve.

* We would be remiss in not mentioning the passing of Dit Holt, whose obituary is on this page. Apart from a long record of success in the mining industry and a life devoted to advancing its interests, Dit was a good friend of this newspaper, who provided a wonderful series of columns on the history and people of the early period in Elliot Lake, Ont. Invariably courteous, helpful, and good-humoured, Dit was one of those people that makes us glad we are in the mining industry.


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