The Debate Over A Century Old Law

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The Debate Over A Century Old Law Essay, Research Paper English 201 The Debate Over a Century Old Law Thesis: The showdown in the west between the U.S. Government and the hardrock mining industry, over a one hundred and twenty five year old law, is apt to leave all parties involved, including the environment, feeling the adverse effects of their indecisiveness. I. The U.S. Government needs to reform this outdated law.A. The west has changed in the past one hundred years.B. Environmental issues are now different.C. Fair reimbursement for lands and minerals must be established.II. The mining industry claims it cannot survive with reformation.A. Proposed changes would cause miners to lose jobs.B. Mining “execs” claim they already pay their fair share.C. Royalty payments are

said to be excessive.III. Can a new presidential administration resolve this issue?A. President Clinton names Bruce Babbitt Secretary of the Interior.B. Can the president hold firm on his election promises to the environmentalists?IV. The mining industry has no defense for its pollution of the environment.A. The exorbitant cost of mine cleanup is passed on to the federal governmentB. Abandoned mines continue to pollute.C. The need to implement royalty fees and cash bonds to assure future clean up.V. Compromise is needed from both sides The Debate Over a Century Old Law The General Mining Law of 1872, like the Homestead Act of 1862, was put into effect to encourage migration and development of the western region of the United States, under the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. At

the same time, Congress was also offering public lands for the taking, to enterprising stockmen and loggers. The mining law provides every American the right to stake one or more claims-up to one hundred sixty acres-on federal lands. If the claimant can convince the government that he has a “discovery”, of a “hardrock” mineral, that would justify a “prudent man” deciding to mine the claim, he can work the land and live on it rent-free without paying a penny in royalties to the federal government (Barol, Zuckerman). By contrast, the oil, gas, and coal mining industries pay up to twelve and one half percent of their gross revenues to mine federally owned lands (Begley, Glick 66). This law also gives the claim holder than right to “patent” the claim. By buying patent

to a hardrock mining claim, the miner or miners are essentially purchasing federally owned public lands away from the U.S. Government, including land in the U.S. National Forests. The price they pay for the land in question depends upon what type of claim they have filed for. A claim where the mineral is imbedded in ore, as in a gold vein, is called a “lode” claim. The fee per acre to patent a lode claim is, and has been for the past 125 years, two dollars and fifty cents an acre. The other type of claim involves minerals that have already been detached from the ore. These claims are called “placer” claims. These placer claims made up the majority of the claims filed, in the beginnings of the California gold rush, in the mid-eighteen hundreds. The price per acre for these

lands today is the same as it was over a hundred years ago, just five dollars an acre. (Satchell 12). Now, one hundred and twenty five years later, a change is on the horizon, much to the dismay of the hardrock mining corporations. The western territory of the United States no longer needs incentives such as the Homestead Act and the General Mining Law to promote expansion. The economy, weather, and general lifestyle have taken care of this very nicely. Stewart Udall, after resigning as Secretary of the Interior in 1969, stated in a letter that “After eight years in this office, I have come to the conclusion that the most important piece of unfinished business on the nation’s resource agenda is the complete replacement of the mining law of 1872″ (Hocker 25). This law has