Commissioners oppose new legislation that threatens Nevada economy

The Humboldt County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to send a letter of opposition addressed to the United States Congressional House Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources regarding the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act of 2022. The vote came during the regular meeting on May 2, at which all members were present. 

The bill was introduced to the House of Representatives by a member of the Democratic Party and Arizona’s 3rd Congressional Representative, Raúl Grijalva. Democratic party member and long-time advocate for mining, Debra Struhsacker alerted the board of commissioners of Grijalva’s effort to introduce the new legislation. 

“This bill is not designed to promote the development of critical minerals or any minerals,” Strusacker said. “It’s designed to make mining pretty much impossible on our public lands. It would have a dramatic impact here in Nevada and certainly in Humboldt County.”

The hearing about the bill will be on May 12 in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, of which Grijalva is the chairman. 

Struhsacker said she will be testifying on behalf of the Women in Mining Coalition at the hearing. She explained that the letter sent by the commissioners will be added to the official hearing record. 

“It’s really important for the members of the subcommittee to hear from you,” she said.

The bill itself presents a change to the legislation that currently governs mining— the General Mining Law of 1872— in the United States. If passed, the bill would impose gross royalties on mines, which ultimately means that mines would be paying tax percentages based on their gross values, rather than net values, having a significant effect on overall cost. 

“In a nutshell, it proposes a completely unworkable and confiscatory gross royalty on mines that would affect both future mines and existing mines,” said Struhsacker. 

The bill also proposes improvement of consultation between those with invested interest, but Humboldt County nor any other counties were consulted in the development of the bill, according to Struhsacker. 

The bill will leave mining regulations at the mercy of regulators, giving them the unrestricted authority to deem environmental impact unjustifiable, according to Sec. 112 Suitability Determination of the bill. 

Struhsacker said the bill “reads the word ‘necessary’ out of the law and gives regulators the discretionary authority to deem an impact undue and therefore deny any plan of operations.”

The socioeconomic impact of replacing the current mining legislation would jeopardize communities that rely on the mining of hard minerals, like gold, lithium, copper, silver, and pharite, for jobs, economic stimulation, and to maintain a standard of living. Nevada relies on the mining industry to contribute millions of dollars to the economy. According to the Nevada Mining Association, “Every year, 40,000 lbs. of minerals must be provided for every person in the United States to maintain our standard of living.”

If regulations and standards imposed on the mining industry—the largest industry in Nevada—are deemed unworkable or duplicitous, the industry could withdraw and the U.S. will have to rely on outsourced minerals, like those from Russia and China, according to the board’s letter of opposition to the bill.

The letter reads the “new bill would increase the Nation’s reliance on Russia, China and other adversaries for the minerals essential to our security and economy,” and recommends substantial amendment to the bill in order to “encourage mining of our important mineral resources in order to keep America strong.”