(April 2) – A bill to limit water pollution from future hardrock mining operations in Colorado debuted successfully today in the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee.
Mining operations have polluted more than 1,600 miles of Colorado rivers and streams, and the state is one of just seven that allow “self-bonding,” which allows mines to operate with insufficient recoverable assets, leaving taxpayers vulnerable to potential cleanup costs.
HB18-1301, sponsored by Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, and Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, would assure that when new mining permits are issued, appropriate bonds are in place to ensure cleanup and better protect public health and our environment. The bill would end self-bonding for hardrock mines in Colorado; would explicitly include water quality protection in the calculation for the amount of bonds required; and would require mining license applicants to set an end date for cleanup of their operation.
“This bill ensures that water quality monitoring is a top priority for future hardrock mining permits and prevents the taxpayers from having to pick up the tab for perpetual cleanup operations,” Rep. Roberts said.
“When there are mining accidents it’s often cities, towns, water districts and state agencies — you and I as taxpayers — that foot the bill,” said Rep. McLachlan, whose district was impacted by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. “We can’t really fix what happened in the past through a piece of legislation, but we can certainly help what goes on in the future.”
The bill would not change the water quality or stream standards set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and it would not apply retroactively.
The Ag Committee voted 7-4 to send HB18-1301 to the Finance Committee.