The mining of gold, uranium and other hardrock minerals in the United States has contaminated more than 40 percent of western watersheds; nearly half a million mine sites await reclamation; and the projected cost to tax payers for cleaning up the pollution runs upwards of $50 billion. All this is due to a law enacted after the Civil War setting the present-day price of mining rights on federal property at 1872 land-acquisition prices.
The 1872 Mining Law allows mining companies, even those that are foreign-owned, to take precious resources from public lands, within miles of the Grand Canyon and other notable national parks, virtually for free. And claim holders can purchase public land at the rock-bottom price of $5 an acre or less without having to mine the property. Instead, they can use it, and have, to build hotels, condominiums and casinos.
Modern mining needs a modern law. Pew encourages the adoption of a new framework for mining that compensates taxpayers, respects local communities and protects the environment.