Conservation Voters New Mexico * Earthworks
Gila Resources Information Project * New Mexico Environmental Law Center

CONTACT:
Allyson Siwik, Gila Resources Information Project, 575.590.7619
Lilliana Castillo, Conservation Voters New Mexico, 505.992.8683
Alan Septoff, Earthworks, 202-271-2355

New Mexico legislature debates legalizing mines that pollute for thousands of years, shifting billions in mine cleanup financial liability to state taxpayers

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the House Energy Environment and Natural Resources Committee (HEENRC) considered House Bill 625, sponsored by Rep. John Zimmerman (R-Doña Ana, Grant & Sierra). If adopted, the bill would change the New Mexico State Mining Act to permit mines that could pollute the state’s scarce ground and surface water for thousands of years, and would also leave New Mexico taxpayers liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in mining pollution cleanup, among other industry-friendly changes.

HB 625 changes to the New Mexico Mining Act include:

  • Allowing new mines to pollute surface and ground water for thousands of years;
  • Allowing the unlimited expansion of mines without public notice and participation;
  • Giving mining companies a loophole to indefinitely postpone reclamation/cleanup of a mine, even after they stop producing;
  • Removing public notice and public hearing requirements when a mine comes back online after being on standby status;
  • Preventing public access to documents necessary to determine the positive/negative economic viability of a mine;
  • Reducing the amount of money mining companies are required to post as a cleanup bond;
  • Making it more complicated to regularly reassess mine cleanup bonds for adequacy;

The HEENRC is expected to vote on the bill at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, March 9 in room 309 in the New Mexico State Capitol, 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe.

“After a century of pollution and abandonment by mining companies, the New Mexico state legislature adopted the Mining Act to ensure that companies clean up after themselves when they mine in New Mexico. The Act is bringing rivers back to life, protecting drinking water supplies, and safeguarding taxpayers from having to foot massive cleanup bills. Particularly in these times of severe water shortage, it would be a mistake to weaken the Mining Act.” — Douglas Meiklejohn, Executive Director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center

“This bill will have serious implications for residents of Grant County who live with the environmental impacts of mining operations at Freeport-McMoRan’s Chino, Cobre and Tyrone copper mines. The company has contaminated thousands of acre-feet of groundwater that is the source of drinking water for Silver City and the Mining District. New Mexico can’t afford to allow mining companies to waste such a scarce resource in order to increase the corporate bottom line.” — Allyson Siwik, Executive Director, Gila Resources Information Project

“HB 625 would weaken the Mining Act to allow industry to shrug their responsibility to perform reclamation or to show that a new mine will continue to meet applicable environmental requirements without perpetual care of the mine by the operator, allowing these companies to leave a toxic trail of contamination. This bill also jeopardizes communities by allowing for unlimited expansion of any existing open pit or waste units, effectively eliminating critical safeguards contained in the Mining Act.” — Victor Reyes, Conservation Voters New Mexico Legislative Director.

“New Mexico is budget-strapped and drought-stricken with no relief in sight in either case. HB625 could cost New Mexicans billions in mining cleanup, and pollute water supplies for thousands of years. A worse deal for the people of New Mexico is pretty hard to imagine.”
— Lauren Pagel, Earthworks Policy Director.

For More Information

HB625 draft text: http://bit.ly/HB625draft

Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions — earthworksaction.org

Recognizing that human and environmental systems are inseparable and interdependent, Gila Resources Information Project pursues two goals: 1. To protect and nurture human communities by safeguarding the natural resources that sustain us all; 2. To safeguard natural resources by facilitating informed public participation in resource use decisions — gilaresources.info

Conservation Voters New Mexico connects the people of New Mexico to their political power to protect our air, land, and water for a healthy Land of Enchantment — cvnm.org

New Mexico Environmental Law Center is a non profit, public interest law firm that provides free and low-cost legal services on environmental matters throughout New Mexico. Founded in 1987, the Law Center works with clients — often individuals, neighborhood associations, environmental organizations, Tribes and Pueblos — seeking to protect the environment — nmelc.org