20070820 uraniummine sameaton
Piles of rock debris mark the different geologic layers in the wake of a drill boring its way through 2,500 feet of rock and 200 million years of geologic history at a site near Moab, Utah. - 


Scott Jagow: Tomorrow, some folks from Congress are heading to Elko, Nevada. That's the heart of rock mining country. The reason they're going is to find out more about mining on federal land. When coal and oil companies drill on government property, they have to pay royalties. The same isn't true for miners. Wren Elhai reports.

Wren Elhai: New mining claims on federal land are soaring — up 80 percent since 2003. That's less land for recreation and more mines for taxpayers to clean up.

Many say mines should pay for the land they're using. Jane Danowitz directs the Pew Center's Campaign for Responsible Mining.

Jane Danowitz: These corporations are taking public resources from public lands, and they ought to compensate the public for the resources that they've taken.

Mining companies are willing to pay some royalties, but not the 8 percent proposed in the House right now. Russ Fields is the President of the Nevada Mining Association.

Russ Fields: It would have a real chilling effect on production and certainly would probably stop new exploration.

Western miners have a powerful ally in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. When he appears at the House hearing tomorrow, they say he's likely to argue the high royalties would cost Nevada too many jobs.

In Washington, I'm Wren Elhai for Marketplace.