MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2005-11-15


Jewelers of America Opposes Public Land Sales to Mining Companies


15th November 2005

(ENS) - Jewelers of America, the nation's largest retail jewelry trade association, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on Monday night urging him to strip controversial mining provisions from the House budget reconciliation bill.

The letter, signed by Jewelers of America President and CEO Matthew Runci, expressed concern that the mining provisions authored by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, a California Republican, "would result in a massive giveaway of public land giveaway to corporations and private interests."

Pombo's language would permit private corporations engaged in mining to purchase public lands such as national forests, monuments and wilderness areas. More than 270 million acres of federal public lands in the West would be thrown open for sale if the current version of House budget bill becomes law.

The House Republican leadership pulled the budget reconciliation bill from the floor last Thursday when it became clear that they did not have the votes to pass it, even though they had removed language authorizing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The House is expected to resume discussions on the bill today with a vote possible later this week.

Jewelers of America has a stake in the outcome of this legislative battle because its retail members depend on the consumer appeal of gold and other minerals and metals.

The Jewelers of America letter states, "Any reforms to the mining laws must be done in the 'light of day' with full consideration by the committees of jurisdiction and with ample opportunity for the public to examine and comment on the legislation. Disguising major changes in our environmental laws as 'miscellaneous' and merely a 'revenue raiser' simply does not serve the public interest. These lands have been held in trust for the public and should be treated as such."

"Thanks to Jewelers of America for standing up for special places like the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area," said Mary Mitchell, executive director of Rock Creek Alliance, based in Sandpoint, Idaho. "Congress should listen to Jewelers of America and other business and community leaders and take the mining provisions out of the budget bill."

Mitchell and others are concerned that if the Pombo provisions are passed into law, Revett Minerals Inc. could buy public land adjacent to the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and construct the mine without any federal agency oversight of the potential impacts that pollution from the mine would have on the nearby Clark Fork River and Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho's largest freshwater lake.

EARTHWORKS, a Washington, DC-based environmental organization, Oxfam America, a humanitarian relief and development organization, and Westerners for Responsible Mining, a coalition committed to protecting public lands and communities in the western U.S. welcomed the unexpected action by Jewelers of America.

"We applaud Jewelers of America for their strong stand against this sneak attack on our western public land heritage," said Steve D'Esposito, president of EARTHWORKS.

"All of us who have a direct stake in this issue, including local communities, jewelry companies, mining professionals and mining companies, should stand together," D'Esposito said. "By allowing the reckless privatization of our public lands, Pombo's provisions would promote land speculation and real estate development, which could threaten the interests of responsible mining companies."


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