Chicago Peak is located in Western Montana’s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area, and is a holy place for the Salish and Kootenai native tribes. In other words: It’s a terrible location for a massive proposed copper and silver mine.1
But under the shockingly antiquated General Mining Law of 1872, the National Forest Service says it has no choice but to approve the mine. Even worse, this relic of a law will hand nearly $20 billion dollars worth of publicly owned minerals to Canadian company Revett Minerals, totally for free.2 We get nothing.
This mine is only one example. Overall, Congress’s failure to update our 140-year-old mining law is one of the most egregious, expensive and destructive failures in federal land management.
Tell Congress: It is long past time to update the General Mining Law of 1872!
The General Mining Law of 1872 is literally an artifact of another era.In 1872, Women could not vote in America. There were only 37 States in the Union. And our government sought to settle the vast Western territories by handing out mining rights to fortune-seeking settlers.
Yet today, this relic continues to govern hard rock mining of metals like copper, uranium, silver and gold. The result is a massive giveaway to giant mining companies that rips off taxpayers to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Under the law:3
- Mining leases can be purchased at 1872 prices of $2.50 – $5 an acre.
- Companies can mine publicly owned mineral resources without paying any royalties. We just give it away!
- Federal land managers must prioritize mining over all other land uses.
- The law contains NO environmental protections — which has led to the pollution of more than 40% of Western U.S. watershed, and left us holding the bill for an estimated more than $30 billion in mine cleanup and reclamation.
Tell Congress: Update the Mining Law of 1872!
In today’s world of giant, international mining conglomerates using massive pieces of equipment and polluting huge volumes of water to rip up the earth — as opposed to Wild West times of risk-taking prospectors and their pack mules seeking fortune – this law should be a page in history books, not our actual law books!
Congress has twice tried and failed to reform the law. But it’s long past time for an updated mining law that allows land managers to protect unique public lands from mining, implements strong environmental standards for mines, collects funds for mining reclamation, and puts a fair royalty on the extraction of these publicly owned resources.4
It is crazy that our mining law pre-dates the invention of the telephone and the light bulb. Tell Congress to update this massive giveaway, the General Mining Law of 1872.
1. “Big Mine. Bigger Trouble,” Rock Creek Aliance
2. “A Sacred Peak With Rich Ore Deposits,” New York Times, April 9, 2012
3. “General Mining Law of 1872,” Earthworks
4. “1872 Mining Law Reform Requirements,” Earthworks