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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Nov 5, 2015.
Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015
This bill prohibits the United States from issuing a patent for any mining claim, millsite, or tunnel site located unless a patent application meeting all applicable requirements was filed with the Department of the Interior by September 30, 1994.
The holder of each unpatented mining claim, millsite, or tunnel site shall pay Interior a maintenance fee of $150 for each claim, millsite, or tunnel site, as well as a location fee of $50.
Any claimholder failing to perform assessment work or fee a maintenance fee shall forfeit the claim, millsite, or tunnel site.
Production of all locatable minerals from any mining claim shall be subject to a reasonable royalty established by Interior of between 2% and 5% of the gross income from mining for production of all locatable minerals, which may be reduced in certain circumstances.
Interior shall establish a comprehensive inspection, collection, fiscal, and production accounting and auditing system
The bill prescribes requirements for exploration permits and mining permits.
Any mining operator shall provide Interior with specified financial assurances to ensure the completion of reclamation and the restoration of any land or water adversely affected by the mineral activities.
The operator shall restore land and water subject to mineral activities carried out under a permit to a condition capable of supporting:
the uses that the land and water was capable of supporting before surface disturbance by the operator; or other beneficial uses that conform to applicable land use plans. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 is amended to require Interior, for land under the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Agriculture, for National Forest System land, to review specified public lands, especially federal land in which mineral activities pose a reasonable likelihood of substantial adverse impacts on National Conservation System units, to inform decisions on withdrawal of land from mining operations.
The bill establishes the Hardrock Minerals Reclamation Fund, administered by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, for the reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by past hardrock minerals and mining and related activities in abandoned hardrock mine states and on Indian land.
Each operator of a hardrock minerals mining operation shall pay, for deposit in the Fund, a reclamation fee of between 0.6% and 2% of the value of the annual production from the operation.
The bill prescribes civil penalties for violation of surface management or operation requirements and related regulations.