The 1872 Mining Law, which offered enormous incentives for mining Western federal lands, has not been touched since it was passed by Congress 122 years ago.
That is changing this year with the passage of substantially dissimilar reform bills in the House and Senate.The House bill, supported generally by environmentalists and the Clinton administration, calls for an 8 percent gross royalty, safeguards against environmental contamination, requirements for reclamation and an end to patenting, in which companies can acquire public lands on which they have mining claims.
The Senate bill, supported generally by the mining industry, calls for a 2 percent net royalty, provides no environmental standards, establishes no mine cleanup fund and continues to allow patenting.
A conference committee between the House and Senate is currently trying to work out a compromise bill.
Utah's congressional delegation, with the exception of Democratic Rep. Karen Shepherd, favors reform that would more closely resemble the Senate bill. Shepherd supports reform that would resemble the House bill.