Public Policy Committee
There are almost no incentives for taking action on the problem of abandoned mines, but the policy barriers are quite daunting. Who should pay for remediation; which government agency is responsible for oversight; when is clean-up complete; and what happens if there is no responsible party; are just some of the issues that need to be addressed by public policy decision makers. The Working Group anchors these policy issues to the ground ensuring that the community is involved in development and implementation of solutions to these problems. Tribal participation is essential in every element of this effort.
There are a number of policy implications of the Working Group’s scientific research and remediation activities. For example, the current environmental impact review of suction dredge recreational gold mining relies in large part on research done by scientists at government, nonprofit, and state college facilities. The development of water quality regulations such as Total Maximum Daily Load regulations by the Water Resources Board, or Regional Board basin plans, relies extensively on science to develop those policies, but these decisions affect millions of Californians whose concerns need to be heard as well.
Overall, the priorities of the Public Policy Committee of the Mining Toxins Working Group are:
- Create incentives for voluntary clean-up of mines on public and private property. Advocate for policy changes, especially those that help incentivize remediation or clarify liability issues.
- Support the public’s right to know by requiring posting of public lands with toxic materials in the dust and comprehensive fish testing and posting requirements.
- Clarify private land liability and remediation issues: Mine-scarred private land issues and their impacts on financial institutions and communities need to be understood, especially in designing incentives for cleanup on private lands. Develop and understanding of economic impact of problem, including methods for estimating cost of cleanups and potential for job development
- Create funding mechanisms for remediation of abandoned mines: Abandoned mines impacting the state’s water quality need to be remediated, water consumers need to share in these costs. Advocate for funding for remediation and enforcement of key environmental statutes from public and private sources.
- Clarify and strengthen regulations around “green” or” re-mining” activities, including mercury handling and disposal. Develop clear standards for cleanup to ensure high quality remediation.
- Better coordination on policy issues is needed: An accessible clearinghouse on legislation and policy impacting these issues needs to be developed and maintained.
The overall Working Group will take a cautious approach around policy issues, providing scientific and technological input without getting everyone in the group involved in policy formation or advocacy. The Working Group will have clear separation between its scientific and technological review activities and any policy activities.