3 out of 5 NV congressional Democrats want to let the mining industry party like it’s 1872 • Nevada Current

Three-fifths of the Democrats in Nevada’s congressional delegation agree with the state’s only Republican in Congress, Rep. Mark Amodei: If there’s one thing the federal government should do, that thing is whatever mining wants.

Amodei got a bill passed on the floor of your United States House of Representatives this week. 

First, congratulations, Congressman. A representative getting the House to pass a bill was no small thing even back in what might be thought of as saner times. The good ship Saner Times having sailed, the current Republican-controlled House, despite recent life signs, remains on pace to be the least productive in decades.

And it looked like that stunning record of mayhem-enriched underachievement would likewise doom Amodei’s bill, which went belly up on the House floor last week when someone evidently forgot to tell a few Republican members of a narrowly divided House that there was work that day.

But there was a mining industry to protect, dadgummit, and Amodei, a former president of the Nevada Mining Association (while he was still in the state Senate ha ha is that the Nevada Way or what?), would not be denied.

If passed by the Senate and signed by the president, the bill would erase a 2022 federal court ruling that tried to impose a small measure of long-overdue sense on another law that was sponsored by a Nevadan on behalf of the mining industry 150 years earlier, the General Mining Law of 1872.

Background: A couple years ago in what is known as the Rosemont decision, a federal appeals court said when mining companies stake claims on federal land, and they find minerals on that land, mine away, as per usual, under ye olde 1872 law. But! The court also ruled – and this was new – that companies can’t use adjacent federal land on which no valuable minerals have been proven to exist as part of the mining operation. So no filthy slag heaps on the other side of the road, that sort of thing.

Amodei’s bill aims to overturn the Rosemont decision, and thus make filthy slag heaps on the other side of the road great again.

The vast majority of House Democrats, including Nevada’s Dina Titus and Susie Lee, voted against Amodei’s bill. But there were eight Democratic exceptions, one of whom was Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, who is reliably eager to demonstrate fealty to Nevada’s mining industry.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was predictably giddy over the House passing Amodei’s bill, her being a lead co-sponsor of companion legislation in the Senate. 

Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is one of that measure’s co-sponsors, which won’t win her many votes in the rurals this year, but at least should help dissuade the mining industry from spending any money against her in her reelection campaign. 

A similar – and successful – safeguarding of the mining industry’s bottom line earned Cortez Masto a small assist from the industry in the rurals during her 2022 reelection campaign. 

Arizona independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is also a co-sponsor, so between her, both Nevada senators, and all Republicans, it’s conceivable the bill could pass the narrowly divided Senate. If Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lets it come up.

Mining corporations and the politicians who love them have been urgently stressing how vital their industry is to national security. That emphasis, almost always accompanied by saying “China” a few times, helps put the “critical” in “critical minerals.”

After House passage of his bill this week, Amodei didn’t disappoint. “Securing our domestic mineral supply chain is not only critical to our nation’s economic success, but to our national security,” he said.

When touting the Senate version of the legislation last year, Cortez Masto said “we must produce minerals in the United States and not solely rely on foreign sources, some of whom threaten our national security…All of this means we must address the complications created by the Rosemont decision.”

And on multiple occasions, Cortez Masto has warned that the Rosemont decision will “upend” the mining industry.

Evidence suggests otherwise: The same mineral deposits at the heart of the terrible horrible no good very bad Rosemont decision – the example Cortez Masto refers to when she says the decision will “upend” mining – are included in an Arizona mining complex currently being developed by the same Canadian corporation that was developing the Rosemont mine. Except now the project is bigger. And instead of Rosemont, it’s called “Copper World.”

If enacted, the Amodei-Cortez Masto legislative effort to reverse the Rosemont decision, like a call from Cortez Masto and Rosen to allow lithium mining corporations to get tax credits against extraction costs, may help Nevada’s nascent lithium industry and other newly developing “critical mineral” mines save a buck or two and pass those savings on to shareholders the world over.

But whether the Rosemont decision is left intact will have no impact whatsoever on the certainty or scale of future mineral production. That will be determined by the price of the mineral. Period.

That doesn’t mean the legislation is meaningless. 

It could potentially enhance returns for mining corporation shareholders. 

It could provide Rosen yet another opportunity to make a campaign ad celebrating how much she loves to stand up to Democrats and vote with Republicans.

It confirms yet again that there is a contingent of Nevada Democratic politicians who believe Nevada should remain a mining colony.

And, most consequentially, it would assure massive hills of mining waste where they don’t belong, on public lands that aren’t even being mined, doing what massive hills of mining waste always do: contaminating soil, water, and air, far into the foreseeable future.

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