We just received news of this video from folks in Yakutat, Alaska near the Tongass National Forest fighting to protect the Yakutat Forelands from mining development. This struggle is a collective struggle we face as Native peoples across this country, and the world, as we fight to protect our traditions and way of life amidst increasing encroachment and development. In the U.S. we need to proactively work together and change our severely outdated mining law created in an era of chaotic gold rush — and close other loopholes created by powerful and well-funded mining lobbying efforts.
What is the Mining Law of 1872?
In 1872 the West already teemed with miners digging the earth, blasting rock and dreaming of fortunes to be made. The Mining Law of 1872 was passed by Congress to legitimize this booming industry and to aid in the settlement of the vast public lands in the West. Prior to passage of the law there were no formal procedures to guarantee the legal “right” to mining claims.
The Mining Law of 1872 gives anyone the right to enter, stake a claim and prospect for minerals on public lands (Forest Service or BLM), no matter what other values may exist there, such as wildlife habitat, recreation, scenic beauty, or water resources. The BLM and other federal agencies regulating “multiple use” public lands often give mining highest priority because of the Mining Law. Unfortunately, once mined, the land is no longer useful for any other purposes. Under the Mining Law there are no provisions for environmental protection and no requirements for reclaiming and restoring the land when the miners are through.