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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Activists target 1872 mining law

A Spokane conservation group staked a mining claim across the street from one of Coeur d’Alene’s most exclusive subdivisions Thursday, hoping to draw attention to what it considers outdated federal mining laws.

The Lands Council named their official mineral lode claim, “Time for 1872 Law Reform,” referencing a law that has received little update since its passage. The claim was staked on 20 acres of U.S. Forest Service land across the street from mansions overlooking Hayden Lake.

“We’re thinking this could be a new fund-raiser for the Lands Council – do a little open pit mining,” joked the group’s director, Mike Petersen, as he pounded in a wooden stake holding the claim.

After recording the coordinates of the claim, the Lands Council will pay $165 to the Bureau of Land Management to secure it, Petersen said. The group has no intention of mining the land. Publicity-motivated claims were also staked by conservation groups in other Western states Thursday to protest the 1872 law.

Critics say the law should require mining companies to pay royalties to taxpayers for extracting gold, silver and other minerals. In comparison, coal, oil and gas companies pay between 8 percent and 12.5 percent in royalties from commodities dug or pumped off public land, Petersen said. Even ski areas must pay market-based fees for leasing public lands, he added.

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, thinks the 1872 law is working just fine. He responded to the stunt with his own sarcasm, saying his hardhat and pick are ready.

“If the Lands Council wants to mine their claim, I will be the first in line to help them,” Craig said. “However, much like their vision for America, my guess is that no mining will ever take place.”

Craig said federal mining laws “ensure that mining is conducted in a fair, responsible and environmentally sound way. … We should be encouraging mining in our country. We need the minerals for our security and prosperity and to grow this economy.”

Petersen said most federal land, except national parks and wildlife refuges, is open to mining claims. Mineral rights have already been claimed under 260,185 acres in Idaho and 50,632 acres in Washington, according to data compiled by the Environmental Working Group.

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