House passes reform of 1872 mining law

The U.S. House easily passed reform of the 1872 mining law that still governs the discovery and extraction of “hard rock” minerals on public lands.

The bill did not pass it by enough, however, to override President Bush’s veto.

A weaker bill is expected to pass the Senate, one more in line with some of the President’s objections. However, Bush has a tendency to move “move the goalposts” in terms of his objections on bills, making him essentially impossible to negotiate with.

Story by Brodie Farquhar, House Passes Mining Reform, White House Threatens Veto. New West.

A look the voting pattern of U.S. Representatives from the West shows Republicans against reform and Democrats in favor, almost without exception. Even “Blue Dogs” like Utah Democrat Jim Matheson voted for the bill.






  1. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Let’s see now… Since 1872, that is to say, for 135 years, multi-national conglomerates as well as small operators have been allowed to mine gold, silver, uranium and copper on AMERICA’S public lands without paying any royalty to “The Feds.” According to modern math, they’ve paid exactly $00.00. That means they got access to America’s resources for free. Nada. Zip. Cerro. Zilch.

    Wadda deal. How many billions of dollars has the America taxpayer been screwed out of thanks to the 1872 mining law?

    If I were Prez, I’d disband and fire legions of bureaucratic pencil-pushers, chair-warmers and bean-counters and I’d hire armies of skilled attorneys and scientists and then I’d not only brutally enforce the laws on the books (see ‘ya in the Supreme Court), I’d twist the arms of those in Congress to write more to protect the American public and environment from bend-over laws such as the 1872 mining law.

    If I were Prez… Okay, I’ll stop.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    I agree with you Mack. Unfortunately our pres. does everything Bass ackwards (move the B) to cater to the special interests groups and not to the American public…

  3. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Yes, Jon, I am very much aware of Shrub’s allegiances.

    Did you know that in America, corporations have the same rights as individual citizens?

    This is why corporate America has such a stranglehold on our government and thus, our country.

  4. be Avatar

    corporate ‘personhood’ has applied to speech and property predominantly ~ they do not share all of our rights but are considered “citizens” and “persons” – they’ve continued to make gains into the Bill of Rights. it is frequently the case when a case is brought to the Supreme court that the right wing judges fall down against the absurd idea.

    Rehnquist has dealt some fiery dissents which best strike at the absurdity and obstructively undemocratic nature of this case-law.

    One case many in Pocatello may know of was brought all the way to the Supreme Court and won.

    Marshall v. Barlow’s, Inc. 1978

    A Pocatello man refused to allow OSHA agents to inspect his private property – even as the property was owned by his busines – citing freedom from search & seizure.

    that’s a significant undercut of regulation.

    I think that you’re right Mack ~ this has got to be one of the biggest obstructions to the democratic process in any number of ways… it files the teeth of regulators, and allows corporate entities uninhibited by mortality and natural liabilities that breathing, bleeding human beings endure – to enjoy Bill of Right protections ~ and amass wealth at astonishing levels – thus influence over government and regulation.

  5. robinhoodimschwartzwald Avatar

    Okay, so where were the Dumbocrats for the last 135 yrs? Oh, and another thing, the vast majority of those countries raping the land are foreign owned!

  6. JB Avatar

    “…where were the Dumbocrats for the last 135 yrs?”

    Not aware of any Dumbocrat party…so I can’t comment on that one. However, I doubt the “vast majority” of companies (not countries) that have extracted U.S. resources are foreign owned. If you have sources to back up that claim, I’d definitely be interested.


  7. be Avatar

    whether foreign or not – the corporate organization serves a single interest. i would contend that given the corporate charter, it’s organization, and that single motive – all companies that mine are foreign to America’s public interest in so far as they are divorced from standards of practice which ensure just regard to labor and the public’s environmental interest. The Mining Law demonstrates the atrophy ~ and the reform a nudge in the right direction.

    the standard ought be sustainability ~ usually that’s not in the corporate interest given the language of charters, structure of boards and demand of stockholders.

    With regard to the question of 135 years ~
    the progressives – a public interest movement that is as much an integral part of America’s heritage as any other – though rarely talked about anymore and when they are it is to marginalize them – were undermined in the 30s ~ well, that’s debatable, unfortunately not debated enough… they preceded the robust environmental movement – so reform associated with extractive use was focused on labor. the same single motive which exploited labor continues to exploit the environment: the organization of corporate charter and its ability to influence public policy.

  8. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    be, thanks for the insights regarding corporate “personhood.”

    Corporate “personhood” “…allows corporate entities uninhibited by mortality and natural liabilities that breathing, bleeding human beings endure – to enjoy Bill of Right protections ~ and amass wealth at astonishing levels – thus influence over government and regulation.”

    Succinctly said, be.

    Regarding your last post, yes, corporate organization serves a single interest – that of profit. Which is a good thing…!

    However, corporate America has run amuck because our government(s) are unwilling to rein them in, hold them accountable and force them to perform as “responsible citizens” (whatever the hell that means).

    Reform of any magnitude’s not on the horizon. It’s business as usual.

  9. Layton Avatar

    It’s funny to me (and I’m not really taking a side on this) that the folks damning the corporations here talk like they (the corps) are some sort of a seperate entity.

    What IS a corporation besides of group of “us”?? Isn’t most any corp. (public corp. anyway) made up of a bunch of individual folks? Seems like if it was something that of lot of “us” wanted these corporations would be forced by stockholders (us) to discontinue the practices in question.

    By the way JB, I don’t know about a “vast majority” of the companies in question being foreign owned — but I do know that the outfit that did most of the rape, pillage and plunder in the Stibnite area here in Idaho is Canadian owned — Superior Mining as I recall. I believe that the Blackbird Mine on the Middle Fork was also a Canadian operation.

    Also, isn’t the huge heap leach operation in Elko, Nev. mostly owned from Canada??


  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Every mining company I have written about has been Canadian.

  11. be Avatar

    amassing profit is not bad — nor is the vehicle of corporate organization inherently bad ~ but when corporate organizations exist in political environments of weak regulatory oversight and enforcement, the voices within corporate organization that may see the long-term value of incorporating public interested behavior get sidelined – the vehicle exists in an environment in which those public interests are liabilities to competitiveness. I think that the economic values of profit are well-represented, which is why i may be a little left of most folks’ comfort levels with regard to my contribution to the conversation ~ however, i think that the current regulatory mechanisms are quite rightward of the public interest ~ and the ascending price of minerals is going to implicate communities and the environmental all over the country.

    the Canadian mining on American public land is an illustrative example of this ~ as is the heightened levels of arsenic and other pollutants in waterways. Both demonstrate the break-down. The Canadian mining is a particularly apt way of re-incorporating a needed sense of nationalism into the question of regulation.

    I hope the Democrats are able to pull this off. The price of minerals is going to be testing a lot of communities as pits & the like start to amp up. I lived in SE Arizona for a few years ~ activity is gearing up on a PD mine in Bisbee and I suspect that is the case in a lot of places throughout the West/country.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan