1872 Mining Law: Meet 1993 Reform

The Last Great Land Giveaway May Soon Be Over

One hundred and twenty-two years ago, Ulysses S. Grant was President, Charles Darwin continued work on his evolution theory, George Pullman introduced the “sleeper car,” and the General Mining Law of 1872 was enacted. since then, we’ve had 24 new presidents, evolution has become a science and the sleeper car has lost out to air travel. But the mining law remains. Passed by Congress primarily to bring law and order to a 19th centruy “Wild West” shooting itself apart over mining claims, the 1872 Law also sought to lure immigrants and Easterners to settle the vast stretches of public land in the West. In 1993, however, the miners are usually wealthy and the mining companies often foreign-owned, and just about everybody—except mining companies and their powerful lobby—thinks the law has long overstayed its welcome.