Sweet Deals from 1872: Modern Mining Needs a Modern Law

Under a law set down in 1872, mining was considered the "highest and best use" of public lands, taking priority over homesteading or agriculture on public lands with mineable quantities of minerals. Today, when public needs for public lands are even greater and miners dig low grade ores with minerals measured at microscopic levels, this old policy still gives mining a sweet deal.

The Mining Law gives mining for gold, silver, uranium, and other hardrock minerals precedence over recreation, watershed protection, ranching, habitat protection, and other public needs. And it remains fundamentally unchanged from the day it was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant.