They’re gonna mine like it’s 1872

As a result of the antiquated, 136 year-old 1872 Mining Act, mining companies have been given free reign in the extraction of raw materials from public lands, while leaving billions of dollars in clean-up costs to the American people.

Unfortunately, this situation is ripe for further exploitation.

Enter the not so subtle lobby for nuclear power.

With a barrel of crude oil topping out at well over $100, the Iraq War entering its sixth year and all but a small fringe denying the realities of global warming, the drive to produce alternative sources of energy is stronger than ever.

Uranium mining companies are licking their proverbial chops at the prospect of nuclear power becoming the anointed alternative power source. But, promises of rural economic development and modernized mining tactics cannot erase a past fraught with unspeakable health and environmental tragedies.

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley knows this all too well. Check out some of his commentary before a U.S. Senate committee last week regarding the legacy of uranium mining. (link)

In our haste to replace the almighty black gold, we risk ceding too much power and faith to an industry that has something less than a spotty record. We must come to terms with the realities of this risky business and make the mining corporations pay their fair share of clean-up costs.

The House of Representatives did the right thing and passed critical fixes to the 1872 Mining act in November. Senators now have the opportunity to do as the House did, bring mining laws into the 21st century and make mining corporations pay their fair share.

If Congress does not fix the 1872 Mining Act, the same economic shortsightedness that created our blinding addiction to oil may very well foster a new addiction to uranium.

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