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HB 141: Mining and Reclamation Bonding – 2019

Summary: HB 141 updates bonding regulations, but continues to leave taxpayers susceptible for covering billions in mining cleanup costs.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Law

Issue Areas: Public Lands

Official Legislative Site

House Bill 141 would update bonding requirements for surface mines, as well as the surface elements of underground mines (i.e., tailings piles, waste rock and polluted wastewater discharges). These bonds would be designed to protect taxpayers if mining companies are absent, bankrupt or can’t ensure long-term water quality treatment.

While the bill may be one step forward, it’s two steps back. Under the bill, bonding could be satisfied with “corporate guarantees”, which would be worthless if companies declare bankruptcy. Mining companies have a bad reputation for taking the ore, leaving a mess, skipping town and leaving taxpayers with the cleanup costs. This year, the legislature is figuring out how to fund millions in long-term water quality treatment at the historic Triumph Mine, which the state now (unfortunately) owns.

There’s a reason why federal rules don’t allow for “corporate guarantees” to satisfy bonding. Also, the proposed bonds would only require assurances for 30 years, after which they’d need to be re-upped by the Idaho Land Board; even when we know many mines will require water treatment into perpetuity … that’s a long time.