Navajo official addresses amendment to mining law

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Navajo Division of Natural Resources Director Fred White testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources earlier this month in support of HR 785, a bill to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).

"The amendments to SMCRA proposed under HR 785 will allow New Mexico to address critical uranium contamination and provide reclamation in Navajo tribal communities in complex jurisdictional areas, like the Navajo Eastern Agency," White said.

The proposed amendments would enable non-certified states and tribes to use Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funds to address non-coal related mining issues.

Because of restrictions under the 2006 SMCRA amendments, many hard rock sites in areas of the Eastern Agency of the Navajo Nation where the state of New Mexico has jurisdiction, have not been remediated because the state lacks the certification necessary to use AML funds for non-coal projects.

New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce introduced HR 785 and was joined by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan who both testified in support of the bill. The measure is identical to Sen. Jeff Bingaman's S 897 that passed by unanimous consent in the Senate last year and is pending before the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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