Senators Want Overhaul Of 135-Year-Old Mining Law

Senators from both parties are calling for the first major revision to a controversial mining law, which has remained largely unchanged since it was written in 1872.

Senators said a committee meeting today they are open to charging the first-ever royalty fee to companies mining gold, copper and other minerals from public lands.

They say added environmental restrictions and other changes also might be in the works.

It represents a change of heart from years past, when environmentalists struggled to get the Republicans and the Bush administration to consider rewriting the law.

They say it has allowed companies to pollute rivers, scar the landscape and leave abandoned mines throughout the West.

But now that Democrats control Congress, even the mining industry says it is open to changes.

The National Mining Association is urging a bipartisan agreement that would create a predictable national mining policy.