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A Dinosaur is Ravaging Public Lands and Human Health!

Help Reform the 1872 Mining Law - Contact Senator Smith Today!

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The 1872 Mining Act was signed it into law 135 years ago by President Ulysses S. Grant. This antiquated law still stands today, and gives the extraction of gold and other minerals on public lands priority status, regardless of impacts to watersheds, wildlife or local communities. Under this law, the Secretary of the Interior must sell public land to mining companies, often foreign-owned, for as little as $2.50/acre. It is estimated that since the 1872 law was enacted, the U.S. government has given away more than $245 billion of minerals through royalty-free mining and patenting.

Over the past one hundred years, mining has left a toxic legacy on the American landscape, including mercury, arsenic and asbestos contamination in soil and water. Our nation has a large task ahead in addressing the impacts of our mining history and implementing programs to clean up the damage done to our environmental and cultural resources. Moreover, the human health impacts from mining are disturbing and unacceptable. The Environmental Protection Agency listed hard-rock metal mining as the number one source of toxic pollution in the U.S. in 2006, and it has created more Superfund toxic cleanup sites that any other industry. The EPA estimates that there are more than half a million abandoned mines in America.

Prevent Another Gold Rush from Devastating Public Lands

Driven by high gold prices, a new rush is on the rise here in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains and across the West. Over the past five years, mining claims for gold and other metals on public lands have increased almost 50%. Many of these claims are near natural treasures like Wild and Scenic Rivers (such as the Chetco) and Wilderness Areas (like the Kalmiopsis).

The Economic Cost is High

* The U.S. Treasury loses $100 million a year because the mining industry extracts valuable resources from public land essentially for free.

* Taxpayers face a $50 billion cleanup bill from this industry, which releases more toxic pollution than any other.

* Claimholders can buy public land for $5 an acre or less. An area nearly the size of Connecticut has already been sold at these 1872 prices.

The Ecological Impacts are Enormous

Today, roadless areas, salmon, critical watersheds, wildlife corridors and cultural and historic sites are impacted by mining claims. Mercury, acid mine drainage, and other contaminated sediments left behind from mining threaten the water, plants, and people. In the 21st century, America can no longer afford to manage its public resources with the antiquated 1872 law.

Special places like the National Wild & Scenic Chetco and North Fork Smith Rivers and Rough & Ready Creek are threatened by the 1872 mining law. Photo by Barbara Ullian.


Mining Reform is Overdue – Please Take Action Today!



In 2007, the House of Representatives passed the Hardrock Mining Reform and Restoration Act. This bill would impose royalties of 4 percent of net revenues on existing mines and 8 percent on new mines, bringing mining in line with other industries, which pay royalties on the resources they extract from public lands. The bill would give federal agencies authority to balance mining applications with other uses of public land and direct new revenues to clean up abandoned mines.


Now is the time for the Senate to take up a mining bill that will provide sensible reform and protect fish and wildlife resources on America’s public lands. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden supports mining reform, but Oregon’s other Senator needs to join us in the 21st century.


Please contact Senator Gordon Smith and tell him to support efforts in Congress to reform this archaic and dangerous mining law.



Senator Gordon Smith: 1175 E. Main St., Suite 2D, Medford, Oregon 97504

Email: Phone: 202-224-3753






Senator Gordon Smith

Security Plaza

1175 E. Main St., Suite 2D

Medford, Oregon 97504



Dear Senator Smith,


The 1872 Mining Law is placing our public treasures and human health in grave danger, and you should work with your colleagues to reform this archaic mining policy.


Please help establish strong public health, environmental and cleanup standards. Metal mining emits more toxic pollutants than any other industry. Mining should be required to meet the same environmental and cleanup standards as other sectors of the economy, including compliance with the Clean Water Act and hazardous waste laws.


In 1872, the nation regarded metal mining as “the highest and best use” of public lands, but times have changed. Today, our streams and rivers, national forests and national parks and our clean water are more important than ever before and need protection from unregulated mining.


Please end the mining entitlement and compensate taxpayers. Metal mining’s special entitlement to take gold, uranium and other metals from public land virtually for free must be replaced with a system of royalty payments comparable to those currently charged to extract oil, gas and coal from public lands. Assure accountability to protect taxpayers from mining companies that do not adequately reclaim their sites, operators that abandon mines or flout the law.


Please help create an abandoned mine fund to address long-standing problems of abandoned mines, including contamination of drinking water, degradation of fish and wildlife habitat, and threats to public health.


Thank you for your work to protect the environment.