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1872 Mining Law



by Richard Gordon and Peter VanDoren

"The U.S. government owns land because many Americans believe that land markets and extractive activities, like mining, do not operate well unless they are publicly owned and subject to scrutiny very different from that received by supermarkets. We would never accept public ownership as a solution to whatever market failures existed in food markets. We also should not accept public ownership in land markets." Go to the Source

TESTIMONY of Richard L. Gordon
Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute
Emeritus Professor of Mineral Economics
The Pennsylvania State University
before the
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Committee on Resources

U.S. House of Representatives

Reforming the 1872 Mining Law

August 3, 1999

"The debate is really about the distribution of wealth. Critics of the 1872 Mining Law contend that the profits generated by mining federal lands are huge and that they belong to the taxpayers, not the private mining industry. The evidence is largely anecdotes about how little is paid to the federal government for land that yields tremendous mineral revenue.

Even the most casual analysis, however, finds that the quest to transfer natural resource rents from mining companies to taxpayers is not worth the populist attention given the issue by the media. The mining profits generated from that land to the extent that they exist are absolutely trivial."