Tribes, Conservation Groups File Petition To Tighten Federal Mining Rules In The West

Sep 17, 2021

A coalition of tribes and environmental groups are urging the federal government to overhaul how it regulates mining in the West and Alaska. They say current rules disproportionately impact Indigenous people and harm the environment. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The remains of the Lavender pit mine outside Bisbee, where the copper operation stopped in 1974.
Credit Anita Snow/AP, file

The Havasupai Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity and others on Thursday filed a rulemaking petition with the Interior Department to tighten and modernize oversight of hardrock mining on public lands. Prospecting in the U.S. is still largely guided by the Mining Law of 1872 signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, which the groups say is long outdated and largely to blame for polluting sacred sites, water sources and animal habitats for generations.

They’re calling on the Bureau of Land Management to further protect tribal and cultural resources along with the environment, and close loopholes they say allow the mining industry to avoid public review and tribal consultation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hardrock mining has contaminated more than 40% of watersheds in the West. Tribes are still grappling with the effects of more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation left over from the Cold War.