Governor Jared Polis this week signed a bill to help prevent water pollution from future hardrock mining operations in Colorado.
Rep. Dylan Roberts, whose district was impacted by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill near Silverton, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Barbara McLachlan.
“This is good for our environment, and keeps a thriving mining industry moving forward,” McLachlan said in an Apr. 5 news release issued by Colorado House Democrats. “We can’t go back in time but we can ensure we have a brighter, safer future and one that protects our precious water.”
HB19-1113 will ensure that when new mining permits are issued, sufficient and secure bonds are in place to ensure cleanup and better protect public health and the environment. The new law will end self-bonding for hardrock mines in Colorado and will explicitly include water quality protection in the calculation for the amount of bonding required. It will also require mining license applicants to set an end date for the cleanup of their operation, so that they can no longer just to do water treatment into perpetuity.
“Mining is a part of our history and always has been. For a long time, it has shaped our economy, our water rights system, and our communities,” Robert said in the release. “However, water is our state’s most precious resource and must be protected. This new law will modernize our hard-rock mining laws to protect clean water and ensure that taxpayers are never left on the hook for a private company’s spills.”
Mining operations have polluted more than 1,600 miles of Colorado rivers and streams, according to the release, and Colorado 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.
Numerous small business owners, rafting outfitters, farmers, local elected officials and others from across western and southern Colorado testified at a House hearing in support of the bill. It passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.