A report released Wednesday indicates the United States government has no idea exactly how much gold, silver and copper is being dug up from public lands. Lawmakers say it’s one more reason to overhaul a mining law from the 1800s.
When companies drill for oil, natural gas or coal, they must report how much they obtain. And they pay royalties for the minerals they extract. That puts $10 billion into the U.S. Treasury every year, according to the Government Accountability Office.
But companies that mine hard rock minerals like gold, silver and copper don’t have to report what they extract or pay royalties. That's because of the General Mining Act of 1872.
Senator Tom Udall is a Democrat from New Mexico. He wants to reform the law. He says charging royalties for hard rock minerals could raise hundreds of millions in revenue each year. Udall says these are natural resources that belong to the American people.
The mining industry has opposed efforts to reform the law. These companies contend they already help the economy and pays billions in taxes.