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Monday, 17 March 2008 01:49

Mining Claims In The West

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slide22.pngPropelled by soaring prices for gold, copper, uranium and other metals, new mining claims on federal land are surging near heavily populated areas in the West, according to an analysis of federal records. More than 1,000 claims have been staked in the Sierra foothills and almost 500 in metropolitan Sacramento, including historic mining areas that have become high-tech employment centers. In California, active mining claims have increased by almost 20%. Millions of Californians in 293 cities or towns are within five miles of the current crop of mining claims.


With close to 100 former mining camps and a geographic location in the heart of California’s legendary “Mother Lode”, Amador County once claimed to be the leading mining county in the State. The county's mines produced over 160 million dollars in gold between the early 1850's and 1960’s. Although rusting metal gallus frames along the roadsides may be the only reminder of Amador’s heyday, new mining claims are sprouting up. The US Mining Database reports 79 new claims between Plymouth, Sutter Creek and Ione.


slide24.png Mining claims on Western federal land are governed by a law passed in 1872 and signed by President Grant. But since then, the frontier has given way to suburbs, resorts and retirement communities, and the law provides little recourse for local, state or tribal governments if they object to the encroachment of an industry that could bring open pits, acid drainage, and pollution of water and air close to their borders. "The growing West is on a collision course with a global land rush for minerals," said Dusty Horwitt, senior public lands analyst for the Environmental Group. The National Mining Assn. estimates that fewer than 5% of claims are actually developed into mining operations. The issue is expected to be "part of the larger debate" about reform of the mining law, Wicker said. The House passed a revised mining law in November that expands federal agencies' authority to reject claims, and the committee has been holding hearings for a Senate version likely to be introduced this spring.

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