Mining on Federal Lands: Hardrock Minerals Page: 2 of 13
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Mining on Federal Lands: Hardrock Minerals
Mining of hardrock minerals on federal lands is governed primarily by the
General Mining Law of 1872. The law grants free access to individuals and
corporations to prospect for minerals in public domain lands, and allows them, upon
making a discovery, to stake (or "locate") a claim on that deposit. A claim gives the
holder the right to develop the minerals and may be "patented" to convey full title to
the claimant. A continuing issue is whether this law should be reformed, and if so,
how to balance mineral development with competing land uses.
The right to enter the public domain and freely prospect for and develop
minerals is the feature of the claim-patent system that draws the most vigorous
support from the mining industry. Critics consider the claim-patent system a
giveaway of publicly owned resources because of the small amounts paid to maintain
a claim and to obtain a patent. Congress, however, has imposed a moratorium on
mining claim patents through the annual Interior spending bill since FY1995.
The lack of direct statutory authority for environmental protection under the
Mining Law of 1872 is another major issue that has spurred reform proposals. Many
Mining Law supporters contend that other current laws provide adequate
environmental protection. Critics, however, argue that these general environmental
requirements are not adequate to assure reclamation of mined areas.
Broad-based legislation to reform the General Mining Law of 1872, the
Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (H.R. 2262), was introduced on May
10, 2007. The bill would establish an Abandoned Locatable Minerals Mine
Reclamation Fund, a Locatable Minerals Community Impact Assistance Fund, and
an 8% royalty on "net smelter returns." New reclamation standards would be
established, and a reclamation bond or other financial guarantee would be required
before exploration and operation permits are approved.
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Mining on Federal Lands: Hardrock Minerals, report, May 18, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc805658/m1/2/: accessed October 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.