The good news for U.S. hardrock miners is that the son of a hardrock miner, Harry Reid, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, was re-elected by his fellow Nevadans.

The bad news for U.S. coal miners is that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was re-elected to the U.S. Senate and should retain his post as majority leader of the U.S. Senate, as well as his disdain for coal-fired power plants.

More bad news for U.S. mining, however, as President Barack Obama still controls the executive branch, including all federal agencies which regulate domestic mining. Mountaintop mining will remain a hot button issue for the administration, as will the EPA's insistence on regulatory supremacy in permitting of Clean Water Act permits pertaining to mining.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in re-election bid remains a hot race that may take weeks to decide. However, if pro-hardrock mining Murkowski retains her Senate seat, she may also remain the ranking minority member on the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Republicans now control the House, which usually means good news for the U.S. mining sector, both coal and hardrock mining. It also means that House committees chaired by prickly Democrats will now be chaired by Republicans.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has been elected to fill the senate seat vacated by the death of Robert Byrd, a fellow Democrat. Manchin's family comes from coal mining roots, and the governor has become very adept at walking the tightrope between coal mining companies and EPA and MSHA.

Meanwhile, Republicans also managed to hang on to Senate seats representing the mining states of Arizona, Missouri and Utah.

To the delight of gold miners and the consternation of coal miners, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, is no longer the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The presumptive chairman of Resources is Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington State.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Hastings promptly proclaimed, "Creating new jobs and giving a much needed boost to the economy will also be at the forefront of our agenda."

"Through the responsible stewardship of our natural resources we can put Americans to work, strengthen our economy and protect the environment," he said. "This includes increasing domestic energy production through an all-of-the-above energy plan and ensuring that public lands are actually open to the public. The livelihoods of rural communities, especially in the West, are dependent on the smart use of our public lands, water, timber, minerals and energy resources."

"Finally, the Committee will provide much needed oversight of the Obama Administration's policies that have largely gone unchecked for nearly two years," Hastings declared. "Our goal will be to hold the Administration accountable and get much needed answers on a range of issues including the de facto offshore drilling moratorium in the Gulf, potential new monument designations and plans to lock up vast portions of our oceans through an irrational zoning process."

Meanwhile, Rahall faces the dilemma of remaining as the ranking member on the Resources Committee or replacing the defeated Jim Oberstar as the ranking member of the powerful House Transportation Committee. House rules suggest Rahall may not be able to occupy both posts. Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, also has a strong claim on becoming the ranking member of Transportation although Rahall is ahead of him in seniority.

However, fellow Minnesota Congressman John Kline, a Republican, did not suffer stinging defeat of Oberstar, D-Minn., the formerly powerful chairman of the Transportation Committee. Kline is now considered the heavy favorite to replace liberal George Miller, D-California, as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Miller could choose to remain as the ranking member of Education and Labor, continuing his crusade to toughen mine safety.

New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone--a Democrat who is a strong environmentalist and an equally formidable opponent of the energy industry--could also become the ranking member on the House Resources Committee if Rahall choses the Transportation Committee.

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, coasted to an easy re-election. However, the gold mining stalwart could be moving on to a more powerful committee, possibly leaving Nevada without a representative on the House Resources Committee. Fellow Nevada representative Dina Titus, a Democrat, was defeated by her Republican challenger, while the third Nevada representative, Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, also coasted to an easy re-election.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee may be chaired by the Texas lawmaker who apologized to BP for the company's treatment by the White House. Rep. Joe Barton. However, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, is expected to challenge Barton for the post.

Upton believes Republicans should wage war on the EPA for its regulatory train wreck of job killing plans. He also is opposed to the House Democrats call for a climate change panel.

The GOP has already announced plans to stop the EPA's war on mountaintop mining.

Nevertheless, political pundits say the era of sweeping energy and environmental bills may be over for now. But new coalitions could emerge on water rights and river issues, as well as public lands protections.

The action could also shift more heavily to the executive branch, where miners may still remember the days of the Clinton Administration when a GOP-controlled Congress was helpless to stop the anti-hardrock mining machinations of then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. Anyone recall the demise of the Crown Jewel gold project outside of Yellowstone, or the 3809 hardrock mining regulations?

Current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has already banned mining in areas near the Grand Canyon National Park, as well as near some wilderness areas. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is moving heaven and earth to expand the use of the Clean Water Act as a tool to ban mining operations and expansion of mining operations.

The game of musical chairmanships has just begun...

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