Critics Call for Reform of 1872 Mining Law

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

A view of Crested Butte, Colo.

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

itoggle 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.

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