Conditions are changing for regulations and mining. Technology, social values, the economy, and scientific understanding change continually. Thus, environmental regulations applicable to mining will be most effective if they use these changes to improve environmental protection. Similarly, the mining industry should benefit through lower operating cost and greater environmental protection. Therefore, a regulatory system that is adaptive to change will serve the public, the environment, and industry best.
Portions of the public and the mining industry have little confidence in the propriety or fairness of the regulatory and permitting system. Some members of the public perceive that regulators work too closely with the companies and permit operations without sufficient environmental safeguards. Conversely, some mining operators experience delays that they perceive to be caused, in part, by members of the public who seek to forestall mining through the permitting and regulatory processes. Lack of confidence in the regulatory and permitting system can lead to delays and higher costs for industry, regulatory agencies, and the public, and can also limit opportunities for improving environmental protection.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service need not have identical regulations, but some changes are warranted. The two agencies have broadly similar land management mandates. There are, however, some differences in the kinds of lands they manage, in their specific responsibilities, and in their organization. Whereas some of the Committee's recommendations would make the agencies' approaches to regulating hardrock mining more similar, the Committee is not suggesting that uniformity in all aspects is necessary.
All of the Committee's conclusions and recommendations, taken together, summarize the Committee's views of the actions needed to coordinate federal and state mine reclamation, operations, and permitting requirements and programs. Some of the recommendations will require congressional action and some will require changes in federal regulations. Still others will require changes in the implementation of existing regulations and programs. Adopting these recommendations will improve environmental protection and reclamation of hardrock mining on federal lands, as well as the efficiency of the permitting process.