House committee aims to impose royalties on hard-rock mining

A House committee has agreed to impose the first-ever federal royalties on gold, silver and other hard-rock mining on public lands.

It would tax the mines four percent of the gross revenue from the operations.

New mining operations would pay royalties of 8 percent of gross revenue under the bill, which is expected to pass the House Committee on Natural Resources on Tuesday.

The bill also would add new environmental controls, create a fund for abandoned mine cleanup and create provisions allowing local governments to petition to withdraw federal lands from

Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully for years to rewrite the 1872 mining law, and now that they're back in control of Congress they hope to get it done.

A full House vote could come before Thanksgiving. House Democrats would then have to contend with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose home state has the biggest gold-mining industry in the nation.

Reid is a gold miner's son and has defeated past mining law rewrites. His spokesman, Jon Summers, says Reid opposes royalties on existing operations.

Summers says Reid is working with other senators on legislation that, as the spokesman puts it, "provides greater certainty for those families and communities that depend on mining and that
provides improved environmental safeguards."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)