BLM Director Seeks to Increase Federal Fees for Mining Lands
The director of the Bureau of Land Management said Monday that it is time to scrap part of an 1872 mining law because of the public perception that it leads to dirt-cheap sales of government lands.
He called for elimination of the law’s fee structure, which allows miners to purchase valuable patents, or deeds, for as little as $2.50 per acre.
“I know and everybody else who understands the business knows that it may cost $10,000 to get to that point where you buy the $2.50 patent. But the public doesn’t know that,” BLM director Cy Jamison told a group of miners, loggers and ranchers.
Instead of the cheap patent fees, the mineral rights should be sold based on the fair-market value of the land’s surface or should be separated from the surface and sold only as a right to the mineral itself, Jamison said.
The Mining Act allows miners to stake claims on public land, pay no royalties on extracted minerals and obtain title to claims for $2.50 to $5 an acre. The fees have remained the same since 1872 and have come under heavy criticism from Congress.
Critics say the government is regularly fleeced when property obtained under the law is then turned into housing developments, shopping malls or ski runs.
A February report by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative arm, said some sand dunes on the Oregon coast were sold to a mining company for less than $2,000 in 1989 but now could be worth as much as $12 million.
Last year, the government sold 17,000 acres of land near Grand Junction, Colo., for $42,500 and the owner resold it to major oil companies only weeks later for $37 million, the GAO said.
About 200 miners, loggers and others have gathered in Washington this week to lobby against legislation they say places excessive restrictions on the natural resources they depend on for their livelihood.