NPR logo

Critics Call for Reform of 1872 Mining Law

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1958649/1969657" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Critics Call for Reform of 1872 Mining Law

Science

Critics Call for Reform of 1872 Mining Law

Law Allows Corporations to Buy Prime Real Estate for $5 Per Acre

Critics Call for Reform of 1872 Mining Law

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1958649/1969657" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

A view of Crested Butte, Colo. A multinational mining corporation recently bought 155 acres on the top of a landmark mountain in the town for $875. © William Manning/CORBIS hide caption

toggle caption
© William Manning/CORBIS

The federal government recently sold 155 acres on the top of a landmark mountain in the ski resort town of Crested Butte, Colo., for just $5 per acre under the terms of an 1872 mining law.

As NPR's Elizabeth Arnold reports, the law was designed to encourage the settlement of the West. More than a century later, many are calling for the overhaul of an antiquated law that lets mining interests buy prime real estate at dirt-cheap prices, without owing the federal government or taxpayers a penny in royalties.

The Clinton administration imposed a moratorium on claims filed under the law in 1994, but some applications were grandfathered in. The Bush administration aims to settle 55 such applications.