Right now, we have an opportunity to help shape the future of mining in Alaska and across the country. Submit comments at this link.
Hardrock mining has been governed by the same General Mining Law for 150 years. Now, the Interagency Working Group on Mining Regulations, Laws, and Permitting is preparing to make formal recommendations on how to improve mining laws, and they have asked for the public’s input. For more information, check out this video.
At the Northern Center, our Clean Water & Mining Program works to protect lands in the Interior and Arctic from impacts of irresponsible mining projects. We encourage you to participate in this process to ensure stronger mining regulations that will minimize harm to Alaska land, water, food sources, and culture.
Below are a few examples of comments. Feel free to use these as they are, or edit to make them your own.
- Climate Change: Alaska faces unprecedented challenges due to the changing climate: unstable infrastructure built on rapidly thawing permafrost, unpredictable weather, hotter and drier summers with more severe wildfires (as demonstrated by 2022’s record-breaking fire season), and warming waters that threaten the survival of ecologically, culturally, and commercially valuable fish species. We must transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy in order to leave a livable planet to future generations. As demand for critical materials to power clean energy increases, we need strong mining regulations that ensure that any minerals sourced through mining are secured in the most sustainable way possible. Updated mining regulations must require a climate change management plan to address the increased risk to the safety and stability of mining operations and infrastructure.
- Indigenous Sovereignty: Indigenous sacred lands, food sources, and culture must be prioritized over mining interests. Updated mining regulations must strengthen Indigenous sovereignty by protecting treaty rights and increasing Tribal consultation requirements. Specifically, reforms must include meaningful tribal consultation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from sovereign tribal governments before any mining development is pursued. Treaty rights must be protected and exemptions from tribal consultation should be removed for projects of any scale. Tribes should have the ability to petition the Interior for removal of sacred lands from mineral development where they fall under federal management.
- Contamination: Hardrock mining is the nation’s leading source of toxic releases according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Recent reports show that 80% of industrial mines in Alaska could not contain contaminated water from mine sites, resulting in long-term degradation of waterways. Spills from these same mines were grossly underestimated during environmental assessments, resulting in 2.3 million gallons and 1.9 million pounds of hazardous materials being released over a 26 year period. Updated mining regulations must strengthen mining performance standards by adding requirements to prevent, rather than minimize, the release of toxic pollution, and prevent impacts to surface and groundwater.
- Reuse: Developing new mines is the least efficient way to source the rare minerals needed for the clean energy transition. Mining Law reform must prioritize recycling of pre-existing materials, sourcing metals from e-waste, and recovering minerals from tailings waste; these practices could account for more than 25% of metals needed, according to multiple studies. The Department of the Interior must pursue a circular economy and ensure that future development occurs with the highest environmental and social standards in place. New mine development should be the last option, not the only option.
The public comment period has been extended and will now close August 30. Submit your comments here.
- REPORT: Alaska Mining Spills
- REPORT: Recycling Electric Vehicle Battery Minerals Can Significantly Reduce Need for New Mining
- USGS: Critical Mineral Recovery Potential from Tailings and Other Mine Waste Streams
- REPORT: Alaska Metal Mines
- OPINION: This 150-Year-Old Mining Law Hurts Taxpayers and the Environment