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Mining Act of 1872 Reformation

The 1872 Mining Law is in desperate need of reform.  Under the antiquated law, mining takes precedence over all other public land uses, including hunting and fishing.  The Secretary of the Interior is required to sell public land to mining companies, often foreign-owned, for as little as $2.50 per acre.  Furthermore, mining companies pay no royalties for hard rock minerals, gold, copper and zinc that belong to all citizens.  It is estimated that since the 1872 Mining Law was enacted, the U.S. government has given away more than $245 billion of minerals through royalty-free mining and patenting.  Over 40% of western headwaters are contaminated by mining pollution and 500,000 abandoned mines are on the landscape. 

American sportsmen have united to advocate sensible reform of the 1872 Mining Law.  Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining (SUSM), a coalition of millions of hunters and anglers spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited, formed to protect America’s legacy of hunting and fishing from irresponsible mining practices.

SUSM supports the following recommendations for mining law reform:

  • ending mining’s priority status on public lands;
  • recovering reasonable royalties on minerals taken from public lands and establishing a fund for fish and wildlife habitat restoration to address impacts from past mining;
  • ensuring that resource professionals have discretion in planning and permitting future mining to conserve public lands where high fish, water and wildlife values exist;
  • allowing reclamation incentives for good samaritans; and
  • prohibiting patenting or sale of public lands to keep public lands in public hands.

In November, the House of Representatives approved the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (HR 2262), which passed with bipartisan support and a final vote of 244-166.  In the Senate, however, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee has held multiple hearings on mining reform, but has delayed introducing a reform bill of its own.  SUSM continues to provide leadership in Senate discussions and urge for reform on behalf of American sportsmen. 


We can ill afford to lose the momentum sportsmen have helped create.  It is time this 19th Century law was brought into the 21st Century.  For more information, visit www.sensiblemining.org


Abandoned mining site in Montana


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