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Current Problems in Oil Shale Development

Russell J. Cameron, Proceedings of 10th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1965)


The availability of oil shale lands, free of title questions, must be placed at the top of the list of the oil shale industry's problems. About 75 percent of the lands considered valuable for oil shale are owned by the Government, but are unavailable for acquisition. Of the 25 percent that presumably is privately owned, a high percentage is in the form of unpatented mining claims, whose validity is being contested by the Department of the Interior. The acreage without title question now available for development is really quite small when one considers that much of the land is in small tracts, is poorly located, or is part of very large blocs that, under any condition, would not all be brought into production for many years.

It is obvious that no company is going to spend the money required to develop oil shale to the point of commercial production without an adequate land position, and that land position must have no cloud on its title. Few companies now have such a position.


The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to lease any deposit of oil shale belonging to the United States. Prior to passage of the leasing act, oil shale was considered a locatable mineral under the mining laws. On April 15, 1930, President Hoover, by Executive Order, withdrew oil shale lands fro