The White House - Washington, D.C.

  • February 01, 2011

The 1872 Mining Law...A Stone Age Statute

mr-roadtripgrantThe tour starts at the White House where President Ulysses S. Grant signed the 1872 Mining Law to encourage development of the West. The law was designed to reward those who survived the treacherous frontier trek by allowing them to mine gold, copper and other hardrock minerals if they were lucky enough to discover them. Valid claimholders could buy the land for a few dollars an acre and do with it whatever they wished.

The pioneers with their picks and pans are long gone byt the mining law remains on the books, largely unchanged. As a result, today's highly profitable hardrock mining industry—much of it now foreign owned—receives generous U.S. tax breaks, while paying virtually nothing for the roughly $1 billion worth of gold, uranium and other precious metals taken annually from public lands with few restraints. Compare this to coal companies, which according to the Department of Interior, have put billions in royalties and reclamation fees into federal coffers.

It doesn't matter that the Environmental Protection Agency reports that the mining industry releases more toxics, like arsenic, mercury and lead, than any other industry. More than 350 million acres of public land in the United States remain open to hardrock mining because of this outdated law. Today global corporations operate mines and waste sites on or adjacent to some of the country's most revered parks, national forests and treasured landscapes.

Side Trips:

Next, visit the Grand Canyon.