December 13, 2005

Author of Mining Bill Plans Revise

Los Angeles Times
From Associated Press

WASHINGTON - House Republicans have agreed to revise controversial legislation that would allow the sale of public land for mining, hoping to appease Western senators who have objected to it.

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.), author of the bill, said Monday that he would remove language that would have allowed the direct sale of some land that no longer contains mineral deposits. Critics had warned that the provision would have allowed a "fire sale" of tens of millions of acres of public land now used for recreation.

Gibbons, a mining lawyer before he was elected to Congress, said that those claims were exaggerated and that development would have helped boost the economies of mining towns.

Environmental groups said Monday that Gibbons' fix would still leave many public lands vulnerable to development.

The original proposal, tucked into a larger budget bill, would have overturned an 11-year-old congressional ban that prevents mineral companies from buying public land at low prices.

At least one GOP senator said he continued to oppose the mining provision.

"If they want to have a bill, they should have a stand-alone bill so there can be some debate," said Republican Sen. Craig Thomas of Wyoming.