The Greeley Tribune
September 30, 2007
It might not be obvious from all the talk about a proposed uranium mine near Nunn, but harvesting of radioactive materials isn't the only sort of mining that has regional residents concerned.
Greeley motorists might have noticed two new billboards to that effect, erected along the city's main drag this week.
One of them captures a sepia-toned photograph of bearded miners working on a rickety rig, presumably somewhere in Colorado 130 years ago.
In another billboard, a monstrous crane inside a modern mine lifts a basketful of ore from a huge pile of rock.
The advertisements carry this message:
"Mining Law Hasn't Changed Much Since 1872. Mining Has."
The billboard extolls U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave to help bring the law up to date, and thanks her for her concerns regarding the uranium mine.
The Colorado Conservation Alliance, the Access Fund and the Outdoor Alliance paid for the advertisements, which the groups said were intended to raise awareness of the issue in the 4th Congressional District.
There are no hard-rock mines in the Greeley area, but water quality can impact the whole state, the organizers said.
Gina Janett, director of the Colorado Conservation Alliance, said in a press release that the billboards serve a dual purpose.
"First, we want to acknowledge Congresswoman Musgrave for sharing local concerns about the threat that uranium mining represents to the health of our communities and the quality of our water," Janett said. "Our second goal is to draw a connection between this local issue and the larger problem of outdated mining laws having a similar effect on communities throughout Colorado."
Although it was enacted 135 years ago--when Ulysses S. Grant was president--the 1872 Mining Act still governs hard-rock mining on federal lands today. It allows foreign and domestic companies to take valuable minerals from public lands without paying any royalties, and it still allows public land to be purchased at the 1872 price of less than $5.00 an acre.
The law also contains no environmental provisions, meaning mining can cause lasting damage to water supplies, wildlife and landscapes, the environmental groups said.
They are hoping Musgrave and other members of Congress will support a reform bill currently in the House of Representatives. It would ensure hard-rock mining does not damage local water supplies and would ensure taxpayers receive fair compensation for the use of public lands.
"Coloradans know a practical solution when they see one," Janett said. "The only similarity between mining today and mining in the 1800s is the law that governs them. It's high time for that to change."