Thursday, November 19, 2020

Heinrich seeks to protect Pecos watershed from new mining, drilling

New federal claims to extract minerals, including oil, gas and metals, would be barred in the Pecos watershed under a bill introduced by a New Mexico senator. Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said he seeks to avoid accidents in the area, such as a disastrous toxic waste spill from a closed mine in the 1990s that killed fish for 11 miles in the Pecos River. “The people who live in the Pecos Valley don’t want to see new mines along the Pecos River because they’ve experienced firsthand what the devastation of a mine spill looks like,” Heinrich told the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining at a Wednesday hearing. Heinrich spoke at the hearing two days after introducing the bill. The proposed legislation would prevent the leasing, patent and sale of all publicly owned minerals in the watershed, including oil and gas, gold, silver, copper and other hard-rock minerals. The bill would not prevent people with existing claims to extract minerals, so residents could still see mining activity if it became law. The difference is the claims would have to be proven valid under an 1872 mining law — something that isn’t currently required, a Heinrich spokesman said. U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials attending the hearing said the Trump administration opposes the bill because it would halt most mineral extraction in the area. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who chairs the subcommittee, asked how restrictions on mining minerals might conflict with the 1872 law. Chris French, deputy director of national forest systems, said the government can’t deny those with claims to mine under the law, but it can regulate how they extract the minerals. Some companies want to explore potential mineral deposits in the area, mainly metals, French said. Heinrich asked French whether the Forest Service could deem the Pecos Valley unsuitable for mining and halt it altogether. French reiterated that existing mining claims can be denied. Heinrich said he doesn’t dispute people’s right to use established claims. But he argued that people who reside in the valley don’t make a living at hard-rock mining. Outside corporate interests are the main mineral extractors, he said. Area residents work as farmers, fly-fishing guides and recreational vendors, Heinrich said, adding that some are afraid they’ll lose their livelihoods if mining degrades or ruins the watershed. “So the only way those folks can protect their watershed from new mines is this kind of legislation,” Heinrich said. “And that’s why we’re here today.”...MORE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the 30's the mine at Willow Creek was in full operation. Lots of miners cabins, stores, etc. But nothing in the history of the Pecos indicates a fish kill from the mining operation. As for the 90's supposed fish kill from that mine's waste is there any proof that it happened or is the author of the article confused with the fish kill on the Red River? Heinrich the carpetbagger is just looking for a headline to keep him at the government trough in congress.