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Developments Under, and Proposed Changes In, Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Laws

George W. Abbott, Proceedings of 6th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1961)

Just as the discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the events which followed were to lead to the development of a formalized statutory procedure for acquiring interests in so-called hard-rock minerals in public lands, so did the 1859 commercial discovery of oil in Pennsylvania presage the need for development of such procedures for acquiring interests in liquid minerals in the public domain.

The Congress, with enactment of the General Mining Laws in 1872,6 acted to confirm hard-rock mining practices which had evolved to that date, to bring order out of competing resource development clashes on the public lands, and to stimulate the growth and development of the minerals industry in the public land states. This basic law provided, of course, for a patent system involving location, development and discovery requirements. Twenty-five years later, the Congress moved to make clear the validity under this law of locations for fluid substances, by confirming the right of placer entrymen to enter and obtain patents to lands containing petroleum or other mineral oils....7

Experience thereafter established that the mining law provisions did not adequately provide for prospecting and exploitation of such non-metallic minerals as oil and gas, coal, potash, phosphate, sodium, and oil shale. Thus it was that in 1914 Congress first recognized the mineral leasing concept