The groups say it’s time to update the federal Mining Law of 1872. Some support a bill approved by the U.S. House last year. It would require mining companies to pay royalties to help clean up abandoned mines. Environmental groups say pollutants include mercury, arsenic and lead.
Bill Walker is with the Environmental Working Group. He says the number of new mining claims in the West has increased dramatically. He says that makes clean up even more critical.
“Companies have been walking away from these abandoned mines or declaring bankruptcy and saying they can’t afford to clean up these mines and taxpayers have been getting stuck with the bill…”
A spokesman for the National Mining Association says it opposes the House legislation. He says the group is open to the idea of royalties but doesn’t support those on existing mine operations.