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Cortez Masto opposes increased mining taxes

WASHINGTON — A House proposal to increase taxes on mining operations on public lands drew bipartisan opposition from a Senate committee Tuesday, with testimony from a Nevada gold mine company about the impact it would have on the state.

Lawmakers from Western states spoke out in opposition to the mining taxes proposed by the House.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., sought the hearing: “Nevada’s mining industry is critical to our economy,” she said.

Rich Haddock, general counsel of Barrick Gold Corp., which operates Nevada Gold Mines, said the proposed taxes on hard rock mine royalties approved by a House committee would weaken the global competitiveness of U.S. mining operations.

Haddock was one of several witnesses who spoke before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on tax increases on mining approved by a House committee for inclusion in the proposed $3.5 trillion spending package backed by the Biden administration.

“Most of our U.S. gold production comes from Nevada,” Haddock said, noting that nearly 85 percent of land in the state is owned by the federal government.

He said Nevada Gold Mines operates worldwide and employs 7,000 people and 4,000 contractors, with an average salary of $94,000 a year, “higher than any other industry in Nevada.”

House Democrats approved changes to the Mining Law of 1872, including tax hikes for production on federal lands.

Proposed tax increases approved by House committees offset new spending in the $3.5 trillion spending package, which is still being negotiated by the House, Senate and Biden administration.

Autumn Hanna, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Senate committee that the 1872 law is out of date. She said mining is no longer done with a pickax and shovel, but with machinery owned by multinational corporations that profit on public assets with little return to the taxpayer.

“This has led to a massive giveaway of hundreds of billions of dollars in minerals,” Hanna said.

Cortez Masto urged Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W.V., to hold the hearing.

She said the House proposal would kill Nevada jobs.

Instead, Cortez Masto said she supports a new mining fee passed by the Nevada Legislature this year, with bipartisan support, that would direct new revenue to the state’s education fund.

Following the hearing, Cortez Masto said the proposed House mining tax would not be included in the spending package.

Republicans on the panel, including the ranking GOP member John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, opposed the House mining tax proposal.

“Their proposal will devastate communities and workers in Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona and throughout the West,” Barrasso said.

He said the “House Democrats’ legislation will also be a giant gift for adversaries overseas, like China and Russia.”

Nevada representatives of both parties, including former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, have opposed changes to the mining law that would have forced mining companies doing business in the state to pay more, citing the impact on rural employment in the state.

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