This forum has inspired me to contact Norm Coleman, Senator R MN (side note, I didn't vote for him) about something that has captured my interest. I had been reading how the 1872 mining laws were designed for westward expansion of the lands west of the Mississippi River.The various states in the area have been left with clean up of these mining areas that ceased production over 150 years ago and yet the patents and claims are the same as in 1872.
This law also governs hobby miners, rock hounds, etc.
The response Follows
Dear Mr. Halstead:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me concerning the General Mining Act of 1872. I am continuing to study the various reforms that have been proposed and believe that mining operations need to take into account their impact on the environment.
The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold and silver, on federal public lands. This law, approved on May 10th, 1872, codified the informal system of acquiring and protecting mining claims on public land, formed by prospectors in California and Nevada from the late 1840s through the 1860s. The bill has been modified somewhat over the years.
The most current legislation before the Senate regarding this issue is the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (H.R. 2262). H.R. 2262 was introduced on May 10, 2007, by Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) and on November 1, 2007, it passed the House by a vote of 244-166. Now it has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This bill would permanently end the practice of granting patents for mining claims, and impose a royalty on existing mining on federal lands. The royalty money would go 70% to a cleanup fund for past abandoned mining operations, and 30% for affected communities. Mining on privately owned land would not be affected.
Additionally, on September 27, 2007, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held an oversight hearing regarding hardrock mining on federal lands. According to the Committee, there are multiple reforms they want to examine in 2008 before moving forward on legislation. The Senate plans to hold another hearing in January on reforming the General Mining Act of 1872. For details on when the hearing will take place, I encourage you to visit http://energy.senate.gov/public/.
Thank you once again for contacting me. If I may be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
United States Senate