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Babbitt pushes for mining law reform

Under current law, companies pay the U.S. government $2.50 per acre for hardrock mining rights  
May 1, 1998
Web posted at: 5:29 p.m. EDT (2129 GMT)

By Environmental News Network staff

(ENN) -- In an effort to convince Congress of the necessity of revamping the 1872 Mining Law, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed a patent for three mining claims on Wednesday, giving away public resources covering 62 acres worth more than $80 million.

Babbitt testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to support reform of the 125-year-old law.

"We remain convinced that reform can be accomplished in a way that provides the taxpayer a fair return on publicly owned resources," said Babbitt. "We are ready to assist the Congress in accomplishing this goal."

The patent Babbitt signed deeds out of public ownership three mining claims covering 62 acres on Prince of Wales Island in Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The patentee will pay the federal government $2.50 per acre, about $155, for mineral resources with an estimated value of about $80 million. The claims contain about 2.3 million tons of iron, with recoverable copper, gold and silver.

"Until Congress steps forward to enact meaningful reform of this law, I must continue to give away America's mineral resources for unfair return to the taxpayers," Babbitt said. "We cannot, and will not, support legislation that does little or nothing to fix the problems posed by the current law."

The 1872 Mining Law, signed by President Ulysses S. Grant and still in effect today, allows patents for hardrock minerals on public lands to be mined for $2.50, or $5 per acre. Oil and gas leases on federal lands require the payment of royalties, a percentage of the value of the underground asset. Babbitt has called for similar reform for hardrock minerals.

According to the Department of Interior, since taking office in January 1993, Babbitt has signed 40 mining patents, deeding away publicly owned resources valued at more than $15 billion to individuals and private mining companies. In return, taxpayers received a little more than $24,000.

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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