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Current Challenges to Obtaining Exploration, Mining, and Associated Rights to Public and Private Lands

Patricia J. Winmill, Stephen Hull, Uranium Exploration and Development

The topic to be addressed today -- at least as it is advertised in the Program -- is an examination of how different the landscape has become in acquiring the right to prospect for and to mine uranium on public and private lands over the last few decades. In order to gain a perspective on how different things might have become, it is necessary to determine where things were in the not too far distant past. For the uranium business and the legal community, that baseline is conveniently established by referring to one of the early Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institutes that was held in Denver, Colorado in November of 1976. The 1976 Special Institute, captioned simply “Uranium Exploration and Development Institute,” focused on the hot topics of the day.

So what were the hot topics in 1976? Well, the price of uranium oxide was one. The price had recently escalated from $9.50/pound to nearly $40/pound and that had prompted a gigantic default by Westinghouse Electric Corporation on the delivery of 65 million pounds of yellowcake to some 27 utilities.1 Other matters that were discussed included discovery, pedis possessio and the location and holding of large blocks of claims, rights of surface owners on Stock-Raising Homestead lands, the right to patent, uranium royalties, ever increasing governmental influence and control of mining, and NEPA.2 Although it h