(Feb. 4) — A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango and Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon that looks to help prevent water pollution from future hardrock mining operations in Colorado passed the Rural Affairs and Agriculture committee today.
“Mining is central to Colorado’s history and always has been. For a long time, it has shaped our economy, our water rights system, and our communities,” said Rep. Roberts. “However, our state’s clean water must be a high priority. This bill ensures that protecting our state’s precious water resources from high risks of pollution is a top priority for future hardrock mining permits.”
Mining operations have polluted more than 1,600 miles of Colorado rivers and streams, and our 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.
“When there are mining accidents, taxpayers foot the bill and also suffer the consequences of the damage to the environment,” said Rep. McLachlan, whose district was impacted by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. “We can’t change the past, but we can certainly help to ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.”
HB19-1113 would ensure that when new mining permits are issued, sufficient bonds are in place to ensure cleanup and better protect public health and the environment. The bill would end self-bonding for hardrock mines in Colorado and would explicitly include water quality protection in the calculation for the amount of bonding required. It would also require mining license applicants to set an end date for the cleanup of their operation, so that they could no longer simply expect to do water treatment into perpetuity.
Numerous small business owners, rafting outfitters, farmers, local elected officials and others from across western Colorado testified in support of the bill.
The bill passed the committee 7-4 and now heads to House floor.