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1872 Mining Law

Dear Secretary Norton:

We, the undersigned environmental, conservation, hunting, angling, taxpayer, and human rights organizations, wish to respond to your statements of support for reform of the 1872 Mining Law. The lack of environmental safeguards in the Law has left a legacy of ruined landscapes and polluted waters. The EPA estimates that mining has polluted more than 40 percent of the headwaters of Western rivers and streams, threatening drinking water supplies and putting the public’s health at risk. The legacy of the Mining Law also includes an estimated 500,000 abandoned mines in the United States, which could cost taxpayers between $32-72 billion to clean up.

Further, public lands patented under the 1872 Mining Law exceed the size of Connecticut. Mineral values on these privatized lands – that were acquired for between $2.50-5.00 per acre – exceed $245 billion. In 2000 alone, nearly one billion dollars in publicly owned minerals were mined from public lands without payment to the U.S. taxpayers, whereas every other extractive industry must pay royalties for taking resources from public lands.