Thanks to the Ethical Metalsmiths for the update!
President Ulysses Grant, signed a mining law in 1872 that remains the law of the land. Its purpose was to promote the settlement of publicly-owned lands in the west. The law prioritized mining over all other uses, land sold for $5 per acre and pick and shovel mining was the rule. Today public land is still sold to domestic and foreign mining corporations at rock bottom prices and mining still trumps all other uses. The law does not protect the environment from the impacts of large-scale industrial mining taking place today, and unlike the oil and gas industries, mining companies pay no royalties!
On January 27, Congressman Nick Rahall and 21 co-sponsors introduced The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009, H.R.699. Its passage would balance the need for mining against other land uses and establish environmental and reclamation standards that protect community health, water supplies, fish and wildlife. Passage of this bill would be a big step in improving mining practices in the United States. For comprehensive information about mining reform we refer you to the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining.
Jewelers and metalsmiths and customers have a stake in the outcome. Increasingly, people who buy jewelry want assurance that the materials are from ethical sources, and with few exceptions, we are unable to trace materials to the source. Jewelers have always recycled gold, and using recycled gold from a responsible supplier is a good choice. However, if you envision a future in which metals are more responsibly sourced, from mines that are regulated by federal law and meet modern environmental standards, you should back this bill.
Recycling precious metals is a tradition we can be proud of and it is a good choice. However, if we want to improve mining in the US, recycling is not enough. Recycling has no effect on mining practices and sidesteps the need for real change. Big mining interests (and their lobbyists) will be in Washington “crying crocodile tears.” Legislators need to hear from us too! You can do more than recycle. You can use recycled gold and do what you can to encourage the mining reform bill. In the coming months, we will let you know how.