1872 Mining Law Hamstrings Cleanup, Critics Say

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), June 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

1872 Mining Law Hamstrings Cleanup, Critics Say


Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

MINING'S TOXIC LEGACY

Taxpayers have scant control over mining companies that dig on federal land. And when those companies disappear and leave a mess behind, taxpayers are stuck with the bill.

That's the controversial state of affairs that has prevailed since President Ulysses S. Grant signed the nation's mining policy into law 134 years ago.

The 1872 law was meant to entice prospectors and settlers to the West, so it freely gives all the gold, silver, copper, mercury and other minerals on federal lands to any enterprising company that can haul them away.

The law gave away timber on mining land, too, until mid-1950s reforms discontinued the practice. And miners could buy the surface land over their claims for $5 an acre clear up until 1994.

Sen. Wayne Morse, D-Ore., denounced the law in the middle of the last century; Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., lambasts it now.

These days, critics focus on the lack of environmental safeguards in the law and the public's inability to stop a mining operation on federal land, even if it's feared to cause irreparable harm.

"It's absolutely amazing that the law has survived to this day, and it's still the law of the land," said Ken Marcy, a Seattle-based manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "It's pretty insane."

Modern messes

Critics say the 1872 law leaves Oregon's federal lands open to exploitation when world mineral prices spike, as they are doing this year.

Today, no commercial-scale metals mines are in operation. Still, the potential for large-scale mines flash like gold in the eyes of would-be miners.

The recent history of the Formosa mine in Douglas County shows just how bad a mess miners can make. During a meteoric rise in metals prices, Canadian start-up Formosa Exploration Inc. launched the mine on federal and private land, then folded 2 1/2 years later as prices slumped, leaving an environmental quagmire.

Formosa Exploration's Canadian parent company was formed on the Vancouver, British Columbia, stock exchange, where ephemeral mining companies arise and disappear, said Roger Flynn of the Western Mining Action Project, a nonprofit law firm that specializes in mining.

The Vancouver exchange - now merged with the Toronto exchange - eventually delisted Formosa's parent company for failing to file financial reports.

"People will try to raise money fast," Flynn said. "They invest in a mine where, maybe, the mineral value is inflated or environmental problems are low-balled, or they don't talk about the public opposition."

And when the going gets tough, the companies dissolve.

The phenomenon was so pronounced by the late 1990s that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. documented environmental disasters around the world made by Canadian mining firms. The documentary title: "The Ugly Canadian."

This spring, the market-driven interest in mining has quickened - worldwide, and in Oregon.

Copper has reached its highest price since recordkeeping began in the late 19th century. Zinc rose 80 percent in the past year. Gold soared to 25-year highs of $700 an ounce in May.

Companies are rehabilitating old mines from Colorado to Alaska. Oregon officials report nibbles of interest in old claims in this state.

Prospectors are even sniffing around the blighted Formosa mine, state Department of Environmental Quality officials say.

"Metal prices are so high right now that if this was running, it would make a tremendous amount of money," said Jay Wilson, a technician who worked there in the 1990s. "There's still a substantial resource there."

In the Bohemia Mining District in Lane County, lumberman Cliff Brown said he is negotiating to sell to a global mining company a 50-acre mining site where he owns both the underground minerals and the surface land. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

1872 Mining Law Hamstrings Cleanup, Critics Say
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.