A new mining claim threatens the ecosystem and sacred sites around the town of Mogollon, about 75 miles northwest of Silver City, according to Indigenous and environmental advocates. In late August, Canadian-based mining company Summa Silver announced that it had staked a new claim at the Mogollon Project.
“Although the Mogollon mining district remains underappreciated, we think it has good potential to develop into a classic American mining district,” CEO Galen McNamara said in the Aug. 30 announcement. “Within that context, acquiring mineral rights to more land via inexpensive claim staking was an easy decision, particularly given that the new claims are known to have a number of prospect trenches and remain completely unexplored by modern methods.”
While many people might think of jewelry when they think about silver, the metal also plays an important role in solar energy production. This has driven an increased demand for silver.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, has once again introduced legislation attempting to reform what he describes as an outdated hardrock mining law.
On Tuesday, Heinrich introduced the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act, which would strengthen the regulations for hardrock mining. U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, also a Democrat from New Mexico, is listed as one of the co-sponsors. This comes after New Mexico has faced several mining-related disasters over the years. One of the high profile disasters was the Gold King Mine Spill of 2015 that sent a plume of heavy-metal laden water into the Animas River in Colorado that ultimately flowed into New Mexico.
Heinrich has been pushing for hardrock mining reform for years and the legislation he introduced this week is similar to what he has introduced in the past. However, an infrastructure package that passed last fall created an abandoned hardrock mine reclamation program.
At the end of last year, a state judge chipped away at a company’s plans to reopen a long-abandoned copper mine near Hillsboro. On Dec. 28, New Mexico Third Judicial District Court Judge James J. Wechsler found that most of the water rights claimed by the company are not valid. New Mexico Copper Corporation (NMCC) planned to use groundwater rights that two men purchased after operations were abandoned at Copper Flat Mine in 1982. William Frost and Harris Gray, along with NMCC and its attorneys, tried to show that those rights were still valid, even though the water hadn’t been put to use over the past four decades—or even when the mine operated.
The big environment story last week was an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying that it can’t pay claims of more than a billion dollars in economic damages caused by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. As the AP reported on Friday:
A total of 73 claims were filed, some by farmers who lost crops or had to haul water because rivers polluted by the spill were temporarily unusable for irrigation and livestock. Rafting companies and their employees sought lost income and wages because they couldn’t take visitors on river trips. Some homeowners sought damages because, they said, their wells were affected. Tribes, including the Navajo Nation, were also affected.
Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced the introduction of legislation to reform federal mining laws that have been on the books, and largely unchanged, since just after the Civil War. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined with three of their Democratic colleagues in the Senate to introduce the legislation, while Rep. Ben Ray Luján is doing the same in the House. The legislators note that the 1872 mining law allows companies to mine for gold, silver, copper, uranium and other minerals on federal land without paying royalties for extracting the resources. The legislators compare this to oil and gas where companies that drill for the resources must pay royalties to do so on public land. This legislation would require a 2 percent to 5 percent royalty rate for all new mining operations.