The US Government announced a proposal to prevent new mining claims and oil and gas developments in New Mexico for a 50-year period. The Department of the Interior said that 4,000 acres within the Placitas area in Sandoval County will be protected to safeguard Native American lands and promote responsible mining in public grounds. The announcement marks the beginning of a 90-day public comment period in which input will be gathered on the proposal.
The Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana in the Placitas area are considered sacred lands. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the proposal will help to preserve culturally important sites in the area. Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, said: “Today we are responding to calls from Tribes, elected leaders and community members who want to see these public lands protected. We look forward to hearing more from the public to inform decisions about how activities, like gravel mining, may impact these lands, including the important cultural and natural resources.”
New Mexico performs an important role in US mining. According to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, the state mined 400,000 tonnes of potash in 2021, the most out of all US states. Potash is a key input to fertilisers used to increase crop yields and improve disease resistance of plants.
In 2021, New Mexico also mined 178 million pounds of copper, the third-highest yield of all states. The US imported 45% of its copper in 2021, but the National Mining Association estimates that the US holds 48 trillion tonnes of untapped reserves.
In January 2023, the Biden administration banned mining in parts of north-east Minnesota for 20 years. Copper mining giant Antofagasta Plc’s Twin Metals subsidiary said it was “deeply disappointed and stunned” by the move.
It is yet unclear how the proposed ban on mining will affect total output in New Mexico, but more details will likely become available during the 90-day public comment period.
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