Wednesday, April 8, 2009

US Mining Law Reform is one way to help ensure that our metals come from responsible sources

Ethical Metalsmiths (EM) is closely watching how proposed reforms of the 1872 Mining Law are developing. EM supports the proposed reforms and will be calling on jewelers and metalsmiths to express their support for the changes to the outdated law. In the meantime, you can catch up here on what has been happening.

This post includes portions of two official announcements regarding the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009 as well as links to additional information about the proposed changes.

Rahall Legislation Brings Antiquated Hardrock Mining Law into the 21st Century

January 27, 2009

CONTACT: Allyson Groff or Blake Androff, 202-226-9019

Washington D.C. - Nearly 137 years to the day after the U.S. House of Representatives began debate on what became the Mining Law of 1872, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) today reintroduced legislation to reform the antiquated law that has allowed large corporations to extract hardrock minerals from publicly-owned federal lands in the West with no royalties paid to the American people.

"Given our current economic crisis and the empty state of our national Treasury, it is ludicrous to be allowing this outmoded law to continue to exempt these lucrative mining activities from paying a fair return to the American people," Rahall said. "Nobody in their right mind would allow timber, oil, gas, coal or copper to be cut, drilled for, or mined on lands they own without receiving a payment in return for the disposition of their resources. And neither should the United States."

The General Mining Act of 1872 - enacted during a bygone era to promote the exploration and development of the West - permits multi-national conglomerates to stake mining claims on federal lands in the 11 western states and Alaska and to produce valuable hardrock minerals, such as gold, silver, and copper, without paying any royalty to the true owners of this land - the American people. The law contains no mining and reclamation standards, and provides for claimed lands to be sold for as little as $2.50 an acre. In addition, it has left a legacy of poisoned streams, abandoned waste dumps, and maimed landscapes.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bingaman Introduces Bill to Update Hardrock Mining Law

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today introduced legislation aimed at updating mining laws passed well over a century ago.

When the Mining Law was passed in 1872, following the California gold rush, Congress was trying to encourage settlement of the American West. It did this by offering free minerals and land to those who were willing to “go West” and mine. Past efforts to bring this law up to date, to make sure that Americans receive a reasonable return for public resources and to modernize land management requirements, have failed.

Given the economic challenges that our nation currently faces and given concerns about the public health, safety and environmental issues that mining -- and in particular abandoned mine sites -- can raise, Bingaman introduced comprehensive legislation to update the 1872 law.

“Efforts to comprehensively reform the Mining Law have been ongoing literally for decades, but results have thus far been elusive. There is renewed interest on the part of many in the industry and in the environmental community in trying to update this law,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.



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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ethical Metalsmiths support the Western Shoshone fight to protect Mt. Tenabo

The Western Shoshone of Nevada have been fighting to protect their land for decades. This week the Western Shoshone Defense Project was denied the injunction that they filed against Barrick Mining Corporation (a Canadian company) to stall the construction of what is proposed to be the largest open pit gold mine in the United States. The mine is located on Mt. Tenabo, the sacred mountain of the Western Shoshone. It is from this mountain that the Western Shoshone creation myths come, along with medicinal plants and traditional foods. After taking a look at the information below, let us know if you would buy gold coming from this mine?

Here is a link to the latest news about the Mt. Tenabo case from the "Intercontinental Cry":
"Court Denies Injunction to Protect Mt. Tenabo"

For a bit of history about the Western Shoshone land struggles and gold mining in particular we encourage you to watch the 25 min. "You Tube" clip of the feature length documentary "Our Land, Our Life."

Thank you for reading.

Ethical Metalsmiths

We are back!

Dear Ethical Metalsmiths' supporter,

We hope to do a better job using this blog to keep you informed and linked to news about mining as it relates to jewelry and metalsmithing.

Check back soon for new postings.

Ethical Metalsmiths

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Do you use coral in your work? Read this.

Pink and red corals are amazingly beautiful. They are also live marine creatures that are in serious decline around the world. Because of their brilliant color, certain types of sensitive corals are now harvested for jewelry (especially beads) and home decor pieces. It's ironic that we are literally loving the corals to death!

SeaWeb, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, recently launched the Too Precious to Wear Program to raise awareness of the severe threats, including over-harvesting and climate change, to certain species of coral. Tiffany & Co. has supported SeaWeb's work and stopped selling real coral altogether. We applaud SeaWeb, Tiffany and other retailers who have taken action and we're urging metalsmiths and jewelers to refrain from using real coral in their work.

Alternatives are available! You can use eco-friendly, "faux" alternatives to coral that are just as colorful as the real thing without contributing to the decline of these marine creatures and their ecosystems. Also consider using enamels and eco-friendly resins on metal to achieve deep pinks and reds. If you come across coral for sale -- particularly red and pink corals -- ask questions about the source. Tell the sellers that you are concerned about the environmental impact and urge them to read the Too Precious to Wear site.

Check it out: Exhibition at MoMA: Design and the Elastic Mind - Design - Review - New York Times

There's a very cool new exhibition at MoMA that features art, design and architecture that draws inspiration from detailed patterns and structures in nature rather than obvious organic forms. The exhibition runs through May 12. Here's the article, with images:

Design and the Elastic Mind - Design - Review - New York Times

U.S. Toxic Mining Pollution Increased in 2006 according to EPA Toxic Release Inventory

EPA released its most recent annual report (2006) on toxic pollution in the U.S. this week. Not such great news! --

The metals mining industry once again tops the list of the country's biggest toxic polluters. Unfortunately, the industry's 2006 emission level -- 1.2 billion pounds of toxic chemicals -- increased 4 percent over 2005 releases. This is while most other industries' levels declined, due in part to less stringent reporting requirements by the Bush administration that went into effect in 2006 for smaller facilities.

Read the AP summary here:
The Associated Press: Industry's Toxic Chemicals Declined

You can check toxic releases by state and by industry on EPA's TRI page here.

A massive increase in toxic releases was reported from one mine in particular, a copper mine in Miami, Arizona. Phelps Dodge owned the mine in 2006, however the site was purchased last year by Freeport-McMoRan. This may not be good news if you're hoping for environmental improvement! Freeport has a less-than-stellar (read: near the bottom) corporate responsibility record, according to an in-depth report in the New York Times. Read here and here for articles on Freeport. Here is an article about the Arizona mine.

This is good reason to support reform of the General Mining Law of 1872! Please sign up for our mailing list to receive updates on how you can take action as Congress debates reform of the law this session and stay tuned....


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gold Fever! All Over Again

Here's an article by Elisabeth Malkin from today's New York Times about the effects of the dramatic rise in gold prices over the past couple of years. The article explains how employees of multinational mining companies have now gone out on their own to prospect in Mexico, backed by major capital from investors. We're worried that the rush has increasingly led to risky mining practices and is driving prospectors deeper into previously undeveloped territory in some countries, such as Brazil.

MAGUARICHIC, Mexico — In these mountains, where conquistadors once gouged gold from open veins in the mountainside, the hardened gold miner of film lore is giving way to a new breed of prospector: geologists and engineers, armed with sophisticated equipment and millions of investor dollars.

Largely American and Canadian, they toiled for global mining giants for years. But, now that the price of gold is near record highs, they are leaving their companies, raising capital to start their own prospecting start-ups and heading for Mexico. On Tuesday, an ounce of gold hit $929.30, up from $665 a year ago. Back in 1980, oil shock and economic gloom drove the price to $875 an ounce; that would be more than $2,000 today.