Myths and Facts
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Department of Interior Solicitor John Leshy's 1997 opinion on the millsite claim limit is a recent invention and an effort by the Clinton Administration to establish its 1872 Mining Law reform policy as law.
The millsite claim limit can be traced back to 1872 in the plain language of the 1872 Mining Law. The limit has been enforced in Department of Interior decisions in the late 1800's and early 1900's; reaffirmed by the U.S. Congress in 1960 — the last time Congress amended the 1872 Mining Law; acknowledged in a 1979 Congressional Office of Technology Assessment report, and described in mining industry treatises on the 1872 Mining Law. (For more detailed information, see WORC's Millsite Claims Under the 1872 Mining Law: Timeline.)
The 1997 Leshy opinion did not overturn any existing Solicitor's opinion on the millsite limit. Rather, it served to articulate well-understood legal limits that some BLM offices had been closing their eyes to by not reviewing the validity of claims when evaluating proposed plans of operations.