WASHINGTON — Today is the 150th anniversary of the General Mining Act of 1872, and a century and a half later, this is still the sole federal law governing mining in the U.S. As the nation’s largest grassroots organization of military veterans, we believe Congress must update these laws to protect our communities and strengthen our national security. Last week, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced House and Senate versions of the Clean Energy Mineral Reform Act to do just that and ensure that clean energy supply chains are just, equitable, secure and sustainable.
Common Defense Climate Justice Director Perry O’Brien released the following statement:
“We are at a crucial point in history. From record heat waves to raging wildfires to historic droughts, it’s more clear than ever that we must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and secure a clean energy future–one where every community has clean water to drink and air to breathe, and good jobs that allow them to thrive. Our current energy system has exploitation and injustice baked in, so as we make this transition, we also have a massive opportunity and responsibility to shape the system into one that is just, equitable and sustainable across the supply chain.
“This is why reforming our mining laws and passing the Clean Energy Mineral Reform Act is so important. Minerals like nickel, cobalt and lithium are essential as we build out clean energy infrastructure, but we cannot allow companies to mine them without safeguards in place. The current mining laws in the U.S. are antiquated and rooted in ideas of settler colonialism that stripped Indigenous communities of their land and their rights. Current law allows companies unfettered access to public lands with zero accountability for the legacy of destruction and pollution they leave behind. Mining is the single largest source of toxic waste in the U.S. and is responsible for polluting over 40 percent of western watersheds–and with no environmental standards, mining companies leave local–often Indigenous–communities to pay the price for their destruction.
“This is why the Clean Energy Mineral Reform Act is necessary. It provides a path forward to ensure the energy transition is conducted in a sustainable and just manner by setting clear environmental and reclamation standards, requiring meaningful tribal consultation, modernizing the mine planning process, and ensuring wealthy mining companies are paying their fair share to access land.
“For many of us at Common Defense, these issues hit close to home. Earlier this year, some of our members had the opportunity to visit Oak Flat, a sacred site in Arizona at risk of destruction from mining, and learn about the history of the land from local indigenous people. The fight to protect Oak Flat is a fight echoed in many places across the nation, and we must ensure tribal sovereignty and consultation is enshrined in our nation’s laws in order to protect sacred places like Oak Flat.
“Transitioning to clean energy and addressing negative impacts to frontline communities is not an either/or choice. We can and must do both, so we urge our members of Congress to act swiftly and pass the Clean Energy Mineral Reform Act.”