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Coping With Mining Law Reform

Stephen D. Alfers, Randall E. Hubbard, and Christopher Hayes, Proceedings of 37th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1991)

General Mining Law of 1872 (Mining Law of 1872).1 This law, based on discovery and location, developed against a history of disappointing experience with leasing (as discussed in more detail in § 12.02, infra). This general mining law has been litigated, reformed, amended and modified, to be responsive to national imperatives for energy, leading to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (Mineral [12-4] Leasing Act),1.1 and to conservation and environmental protection, with the establishment of the National Forest System in 1912, the Materials Act of 1947 (Act of 1947),1.2 the Multiple Use Mining Act of 1955 (Multiple Use Act)1.3 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).1.4

The last time a strong congressional effort developed to repeal the Mining Law of 1872 was in the early and mid-1970's, following completion of the Report of the Public Land Law Review Commission. That effort ended unsuccessfully. Large base metals interests were negotiating a leasing bill as a compromise, when the state mining associations stopped it all with a grassroots political effort leading to Congressman Morris Udall's unbroken promise that the Mining Law would not be changed as long as he was in Congress.

As this paper is being written in the summer of 1991, however, another congressional effort to repeal the Mining Law of 1872 has developed. Three bills are pending