By mid-2011, more than 650 mining claims had been staked on the sites of proposed solar and wind projects on public land in the West -- deliberate attempts, some say, to delay or halt renewable energy development ("BLM shields renewable projects from mining speculation," HCN, 5/30/11). Mining claims trump surface rights, and if salable minerals were discovered, renewable energy companies would have to work around them -- a nearly impossible task for large-scale solar projects like those planned near Las Vegas.
On July 5, the Bureau of Land Management announced the withdrawal of more than 300,000 acres from new mining claims, to preserve them for future solar development. Existing claims remain valid, but no new ones may be staked for 20 years in designated Solar Energy Zones in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The decision aligns with President Obama's declared goal of green-lighting enough renewable energy on public lands to power 6 million homes by 2020, said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze.