A new Web site provides a comprehensive look at who owns mining claims on public lands in the West, along with a scathing analysis of the legacy of the 1872 Mining Law in 12 Western states.
Produced by the Environmental Working
Group, "Who Owns the West," allows the user to scroll through
regional, state and local maps of mining lands, and then research
who owns them, and what they paid.
The site reveals that,
despite bargain-basement prices, hardrock mining companies return
only 2.3 percent of sales to the government — compared to
11.9 percent from coal, 13.2 percent from oil and gas, and 66.7
percent from timber.
The data also show that more than 1
million acres are claimed by foreign companies, mostly in gold-rich
Nevada. Environmental costs can go uncollected from foreign
companies due to the difficulty of international arbitration, says
Roger Flynn, an environmental lawyer for the Western Mining Action
Project. Both U.S. and foreign companies have also evaded cleanup
costs by forming subsidiaries which are unable to pay if the mine
Mining industry advocates respond that the report
ignores mining’s economic contributions to Western
communities. "Without them," says National Mining Association
spokesman Luke Popovich, "some of these communities would roll up
and blow away."
"Who Owns the West" can be seen at