Bureau of Land Management
For Release: Tuesday, November 21, 2000
BLM Publishes Final "3809" Surface Mining Regulations
The Bureau of Land Management today published a final rule that updates and strengthens the agency's "3809" surface mining regulations. The final rule, which takes effect January 20, 2001, will enable the agency to fulfill its duty under Federal law to prevent "unnecessary or undue degradation" of BLM lands from hardrock mining. The final rule appears in today's Federal Register and follows closely a "Preferred Alternative" course of action, as set forth in a Final Environment Impact Statement that the BLM published last month.
The final rule will enhance the Bureau's ability to protect public health, public land resources, and the environment; it will also ensure that mining operators, rather than the nation's taxpayers, bear the costs of reclaiming mined lands. This approach to reclamation funding, which will add some costs to mining operations, was prompted by the fact that several major mining operations have failed in recent years, leaving cleanup costs to the public.
Until today, the BLM's "3809" regulations – found in subpart 3809 of the agency's mineral rules -- had not changed since 1980. Over the past two decades, the scope and technology of hardrock mining on Federal lands have changed considerably, as has the Bureau's knowledge about environmental impacts of mining and ways to control these impacts. The BLM initiated its regulatory upgrade effort in 1991, but then held up further 3809 work for several years while Congress considered making major reforms in the Mining Law of 1872. (The Mining Law governs hardrock mining on Federal lands for such minerals as gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, and molybdenum.) In early 1997, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt ordered completion of the rulemaking process.
In accordance with congressional direction, the BLM's newly revised 3809 rules are "not inconsistent with" the recommendations of a 1999 National Research Council (NRC) report. The congressionally mandated NRC report, titled "Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands," made several recommendations for tighter hardrock mining regulation and called for more financial responsibility by mining operators.
The final rule published today improves the clarity and organization of the BLM's surface mining rules, making them more user-friendly. The Bureau developed the rule with extensive public input over several years, including publication of a proposed rule for public comment in February 1999. The updated regulations:
Copies of the final 3809 rule can be obtained from any of the BLM's State Offices or accessed from the Bureau's national Internet Web site (www.blm.gov) or the Federal Register Web site (www.blm.gov/nhp/news/regulatory/2000f.html#3809-final).
The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages more land -- 264 million surface acres -- than any other Federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western States, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1.8 billion and a workforce of some 9,000 full-time, permanent employees, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM preserves open space by managing the public lands for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, and mining, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources found on the public lands.