Idaho Congressman Bill Sali proposed 16 amendments to the mining law reform bill that recently passed the House, ranging from one to strike a section doing away with “patenting” of mining claims, to one to “sunset” the bill in two years if it results in any loss of mining jobs in the United States. None were adopted. Several of the amendments would have deleted major portions of the bill, and Sali made his opposition to the measure very clear.
Among the most controversial features of the 1872 general mining law, which is the target of reforms in Congress this year including the recently passed House bill and a Senate bill that’s still being crafted, is the original “patenting” provision, which allowed miners to purchase federal land for $2 to $5 an acre if they staked successful mining claims there. That provision made private land of much of the Wood River Valley, though patenting’s been on hold since 1994 thanks to annual congressional moratoriums. Sali’s patenting amendment has drawn his sharp criticism from Democratic opponent Larry Grant, who’s among three Democrats and one Republican so far challenging the first-term congressman’s re-election bid.
Sali told The Spokesman-Review that he’s not in favor of patenting, but figured if that portion of the law is left as-is, the annual moratoriums would continue. “The bill struck the current law dealing with the patenting process and put in place a wholly unworkable permit system to replace it, and what my amendment did was say, ‘Don’t go down this goofy path, this permit system that really will kill off the mining industry,’” Sali said. “Let’s leave the law the way it is in this particular section now.” You can read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.