July 18, 2019

Udall Announces GAO Report Finding Hard Rock Mining Companies Pay Royalties on State Lands – But Not Federal Lands

As Congress considers mining related legislation, Udall-requested report reveals urgent need to modernize the nation’s badly antiquated hardrock mining laws, make companies pay their fair share

WASHINGTON – In a report requested by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 12 Western states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming -- charge royalties for hardrock mining on state-owned lands, and most of these states also impose taxes on hardrock mining activity. In contrast, companies pay no royalties to the federal government for mining on taxpayer-owned federal lands under the archaic General Mining Act of 1872. The full report is available HERE.

Earlier this year, Udall and Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced legislation to modernize the nation’s out of date hardrock mining laws by requiring companies to pay royalties for extracting mineral resources like gold, silver, and copper from federal lands for the first time.  

“This report makes it crystal clear: our antiquated laws give hardrock mining companies a free ride on federal lands – and free license to contaminate our water, pollute our air, and harm our environment. And while mining companies can strip mine gold and silver from our public lands without paying a dime for the privilege, federal taxpayers get stuck footing the bill for billions in cleanup costs,” said Udall. “Some industry lobbyists say they won’t pay a royalty but Western states like New Mexico already have laws on the books to make sure companies pay their fair share for mining on state-owned lands. Oil, gas and coal companies have paid federal royalties for nearly 100 years and hardrock mining shouldn’t be any different. As Congress considers mining legislation, we must level the playing field and bring federal hardrock mining laws into the twenty-first century.”

America’s mining laws have remained relatively untouched since they were established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Since then, mining companies have taken more than $300 billion worth of gold, silver, copper, and other valuable minerals from our federal public lands without paying a cent in federal royalties to the American people – and leaving the public with billions of dollars in cleanup costs at thousands of abandoned mines that continue to pollute waterways across the West.