The House approved legislation on Nov. 1 that would require hardrock miners to pay royalties on income generated from the minerals they collect. Part of that money would go toward a special fund to finance the estimated $30 billion to $70 billion needed to clean up abandoned hardrock mines.

The House passed the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 by a 266-144 vote. The top two lawmakers on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, say they hope to work on a Senate bill soon.

Royalties on gross income would pay for cleanup of abandoned mines.

The bill, introduced in the House by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), would require mining companies to pay an 8% royalty on gross income from new mines and a 4% royalty on fully operational mines. In addition to helping finance the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines, the law would also grant the U.S. interior secretary the authority to prevent new mines that could have “severe, irreparable impacts on public resources” Rahall says.

The bill’s supporters say the legislation is needed to end a practice that has endured since the late nineteenth century in which miners are permitted to extract valuable minerals from federal lands without paying any royalties.

But some lawmakers in the Senate, particularly those from western states, say they have reservations about the bill that passed the House. The White House has threatened to veto such legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), whose state leads the nation in gold production, says, “I cannot support many of the provisions of the House bill.” But he says “an opportunity still exists for common sense reform.”