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U.S. Department of the Interior

Office of the Secretary

For Immediate Release: April 28, 1998

Contact: John Wright 202/208-6416

Babbitt Challenges Congress to Pass Mining Law Reform

Secretary Babbitt signs mining patent during Congressional Hearing to highlight

the indefensible give away of public resources for less than fair market value

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt testified today before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to support reform of the archaic 1872 Mining Law. During his testimony, Babbitt signed a patent for three mining claims giving away public resources covering 62 acres, worth more than $80 million, to emphasize how indefensible the 125-year-old law is to taxpayers, as the country approaches the 21st century.

“We remain convinced that reform can be accomplished in a way that provides the taxpayer a fair return on publicly-owned resources,” said Babbitt. “We are ready to assist the Congress is accomplishing this goal.”

The patent signed today deeds out of public ownership three mining claims covering 62 acres on Prince of Wales Island in Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The patentee will pay the federal government $2.50 per acre, about $155, for mineral resources with an estimated value of about $80 million. The claims contain about 2.3 million tons of iron, with recoverable copper, gold and silver.

“Until Congress steps forward to enact meaningful reform of this law, I must continue to give away America’s mineral resources for unfair return to the taxpayers,” Babbitt said. “We cannot, and will not support legislation that does little or nothing to fix the problems posed by the current law.”

The 1872 Mining Law signed by President Ulysses S. Grant and effective today, allows patents for hardrock minerals on public lands to be mined for $2.50, or $5 per acre. “This is a poor return on the nation’s natural resources; I have no choice but to carry out my responsibilities under this law,” Babbitt said.

Since taking office in January 1993, the 1872 Mining Law has required Secretary Babbitt to sign 40 mining patents, deeding away publicly owned resources valued at more than $15 billion to individuals and private mining companies. In return the taxpayers received a little more than a meager $24,000.

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