Posted tagged ‘Billy Vassiliadis’

Mining. Silver State. Get it?

November 15, 2007

Originally Published on, 11/15/2007 1:30:57 PM

How thin-skinned the Iowans used to seem, making a big deal out of any failure on the part of any presidential candidate to grasp any tiny detail of Iowa culture. This was before the democracy fairy swept into Nevada with her magic caucus wand and tapped the Silver State, turning it into the westernmost (and the least mentioned) of the early decision states.

Since that transformational tap, the Reasonable Reporter has developed some insight into the Iowa mind, and understands as precisely as one can, having never set foot in Iowa, why the details — even the tiny details — matter to Iowans.

And so, if the little things matter (Ne-vaaa-da not Ne-vah-da), then the truly large things should matter more. Like H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007. It seems not to matter, though. Or perhaps Nevada doesn’t matter all that much. You decide.

For politicians seeking the white house, there is no fact too arcane to commit to memory when it comes to Iowa and ethanol. But the recently-passed House mining reform bill, now in the waiting room between the House and the Senate, is not even on the radar screen for most of the viable candidates.This seems odd, because the candidates have claimed, firmly and repeatedly, that Nevada is important. That “western issues” are important. The Reasonable Reporter has the claims on tape, and if all the claims by all the candidates were strung together, they would reach from Carson City to Iowa City.

If Nevada is important to the candidates, and if hardrock mining is important to Nevada… well, then…

The question arises after Barack Obama did address the mining reform act earlier this month in a conference call with Nevada reporters where he rolled out his “rural leadership plan.” Obama said that the industry should pay for the right to mine public lands, and that the bill should exact such payment without putting mines out of business, and without putting Nevadans out of work. He said that the royalty in the current bill seems onerous, and that the industry can afford to pay. He said the bill should accomplish its stated environmental objectives. He said as President, he would push miners and environmentalists to sit down together and come to terms. And that he will work with Harry Reid to correct the bill’s deficiencies, which was probably the most brilliant thing he said.

Although coverage of the mining reform bill has spotlighted the proposed 8 percent royalty on new mining operations, which the industry says would be the highest in the world, the royalty isn’t the only threat to the health of mining, according to its national spokesman. The industry has the heebie-jeebies over an environmental provision granting virtually unprecedented authority to the Secretary of the Interior to yank permits and close down operations on environmental grounds. The industry says the cost of new exploration and development is far too great to risk having it halted at the whim of a single political appointee. The industry fears, with more than a little justification, that investment might dry up, given such a risk.

As Obama spoke, several things were clear. He knew what’s in the bill. He rode the fence. He vowed to “strengthen mining” with a regulatory scheme the industry says will weaken it. But, God love him, Obama was getting into the details.

Other reporters have since suggested that Obama should jolly well understand the importance of Nevada mining because of his campaign’s connection to Billy Vassiliadis, which is a connection to R&R, which is the lobbying firm for Newmont Mining.

Fine. Well he should. But is that what’s necessary for a candidate to notice an issue critical to the number two industry in one of four early states?

Apparently so. Ask the other campaigns, even the ones that tout their rural presence, about the mining reform bill. When the stunned silence subsides, you will hear that the candidate is, uh, still studying it, still scrutinizing it, and has no position yet.