A History of Government Regulations Imposed on the Mining Industry
Mining companies have been subjected to many new regulations and legislation over the decades. Since the late 19th century, a range of new laws to regulate mining have been passed at state and federal levels. While some were essential, others placed a huge burden on mining operations.
The first major legislation in relation to the safety of mines and mine workers was passed by Congress in 1891. Although limited in its scope, this act ensured coal mining companies had to meet basic minimum ventilation requirements. This was followed by the creation of the Bureau of Mines (BOM) in 1910. Operating under the authority of the Department of the Interior, the bureau was charged with the task of cutting the 2,000 annual deaths in coal mines every year.
The Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952 introduced a range of new regulations. The act introduced annual mine inspections for the first time, and it gave the BOM the power to issue violation notices and withdrawal orders. The act also allowed the BOM to fine mining companies that failed to comply with orders or allow inspectors access to mines. The first federal statute to regular non-coal mines was passed in 1966. The Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act was largely an advisory piece of legislation, however.
Other acts such as the so-called Coal Act in 1969 and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 further tightened regulations and brought legislation for coal and non-coal mines together for the first time. More recently, the Mine Improvement and
New Emergency Response Act came into effect. This comprehensive piece of legislation required companies to have mine-specific emergency response plans in place for every imaginable scenario.
As well as having to abide by stringent health and safety regulations, mining companies must negotiate a spider’s web of rules and regulations relating to the environment. Agencies involved in the approval of new mining projects include the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers.
There are now more than 30 laws governing the environmental impact of mining, including the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires that mining companies submit a complex environmental, impact statement. The Clean Air Act, the Federal Land Policy, and Management Act and the Clean Water Act also place a huge burden on companies trying to get new mining operations off the ground.
While many of the regulations governing mining in America are there to protect the public, others are harming the business interests of mining operations — and putting jobs and investment at risk.