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Mining on Public Lands No. 314

Adopted 1996
Reaffirmed 1997
Reaffirmed 1998
Amended 1999
Amended 2000
Amended 2001
Reaffirmed 2002
Reaffirmed 2004
Reaffirmed 2005
Reaffirmed 2007
         President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the General Mining Law of 1872, intended to encourage mining of our public lands. The act remains on the books (although a temporary moratorium is currently in effect). The Act provides that anyone who discovers a "valuable mineral" on most of the public domain has an automatic right to mine it, no matter what other values exist on the site. Any profitable ore is considered "valuable."
                Since mining companies pay no royalty for ores removed, some $2-4 billion worth of minerals are taken free annually from public lands. Moreover, when these are mined by foreign companies, the profits go abroad.
                The holder of a mining claim is granted the right to "patent" (purchase) title to the land and minerals for $5.00 an acre or less if they prove they can mine the minerals at a profit. Federal agencies must make the sales. Patenting is not required for mining a claim. Since 1872 over 3.2 million acres of public lands (approximately the size of Connecticut) have been given away through patenting at $5/acre. These lands contained over $241 billion in mineral reserves to which mining companies assumed ownership.
                An example is the Jerritt Canyon Mine in Nevada, which brought in $1,113,200,000 of recoverable mineral value profit for a South African corporation. The total price paid to the U.S. was $5,000. In 1994, the American Barrick Corporation patented approximately 1000 acres of public land in Nevada that contained over $10 billion in recoverable gold reserves. For this they paid the United States $5,140.
          ADA expresses its solidarity with the efforts of the MineralPolicyCenter and supports a total reform of the Mining Law of 1872.
  • ADA encourages legislation which will:
  •  Stop the public land giveaway;
  •  Establish a royalty based on "gross production;"
  •  Give Federal regulators authority to deny permits in environmentally fragile areas or critical wildlife habitats;
  •  Assess public lands to evaluate environmental suitability of proposed use of public lands;
  •  Withdraw lands that are found to be unsuitable;
  •  Establish environmental performance standards protecting surface and groundwater quality from erosion and toxic discharge;
  •  Protect topsoil and wildlife habitats;
  •  Require planting of productive native vegetation to minimize and neutralize mine wastes;
  •  Give mandatory enforcement authority to federal regulators;
  •  Provide the public with the right to participate fully at all levels of mining regulations;
  •  Establish a program (which will also create thousands of high paying jobs) to clean up hundreds of thousands of unreclaimed abandoned hardrock mines (funded by a mineral royalty and rental).
                ADA supports unfettered presidential authority to protect lands via the creation of national monuments.
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No. 314
Energy, Environment and Economic Commission