It is hardly a secret in the mining industry that no mines have the money to cleanup the site after mining ends. See the past proceedings of the Australian Center for Geomechanics on Mine Closure if you doubt me. With AIG and their crazy insurance mania down the tube, it is unlikely any of the insurance policies they issued to pay for mine cleanup amount to anything anymore.
The general policy amongst foreign miners in the USA, big and small, has been to mine to remove the ore, and then to go bankrupt, and flee the country. See what happened at Summitville, Colorado. I am told the Canadian in charge of that one is not allowed to enter the USA, for they still seek him on charges of some sort that the Canadians won’t extradite him for. Now he is looking at properties in China and Mongolia—although I am not sure he will personally go to China, for look what they do to Rio Tinto there.
I know a small miner that fled their unprofitable uranium mine, leaving it, like Summitville, to the US taxpayer; now they are looking at properties in Mexico.
News is that the EPA is writing rules to prevent this. The news report does not tell us what the rules will contain. At one extreme, is a demand to post actual money equivalent to the estimated cost of closing the mine before you start mining. Of course there will be squeals that this is an unfair burden on mining. No squeals about the unfair burden on the taxpayer if closure occurs and there is no money though. At the other extreme is a polite request for a bond in the amount of the estimated cost of closure. All depends on who stands behind the bond though. Anything from one of those firms now getting TARP et al. money from the taxpayer, simply reroutes taxpayer liability for cleanup as the foreign miner flees rich and free.
Now is the time for the American mining industry associations to come clean. Do not play politics to kill this attempt to free US taxpayers of the imposition of unwarranted costs by foreign (and yes domestic) mining. Regardless of how much you like the other guys. Now is the time for the US mining industry to look clean in the mirror and contribute to the crafting of a procedure that is pragmatic and implementable without putting a cost beyond the true cost of mining on the mining industry.
Let us not hear bleats about the jobs lost, the tax income not received, and deprecation of the concerned as liberals in brown clothing. Let us face it, the mining industry has had an incredible run at the expense of the taxpayer cleaning up the sites of the backrupt and fled. Mining simply has not paid the true cost of mining. I bet an honest accounting would show that the average American has, in the long run, paid a lot more for USA-mined metal than even the mining company got.
It is all very well to give GM money to make cars nobody wants, or give AIG money for bonuses nobody earned, but to give money to foreigners for mines that are intrinsicaly unprofitable if you look at total life-cycle cost, is just too much.
I challenge every last supporter of sustainable mining to come out from behind the rhetoric and make an honest statement about paying upfront for closure, which is the inevitable in spite of many empty paragraphs on sustainable mining. And so we must support the EPA in this honest attempt to save us money in the long run.