It has long been known that most Nevada mining is done by foreign corporations, particularly those based in Canada. An environmental group has Web-posted a comprehensive list of the state’s mining claims and their owners that provides a one-stop location for this information.
The study by the Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org, contains individual state reports on 12 states, derived from federal records.
The Nevada section says, “69 foreign-owned corporations from five countries have collectively gained control of metals beneath one of every 3 acres of mining lands (claimed public land) in Nevada, an estimated 787,000 acres of public land altogether. Operations on these lands will pay nothing to the federal government for the value of the minerals they extract, and could leave taxpayers with devastated land and polluted water…”
The study also says, “For as little as $0.84 an acre, more than 28,000 companies and individuals have gained control of precious metals and minerals on 5.6 million acres of public land across 12 continental Western states. Some of these companies are foreign-owned. None of them will pay anything to the federal government for the value of the minerals they extract from public property.”
Under U.S. law, companies can patent public land, in effect purchasing it and its mineral rights. In other cases, companies mine on public land, but the land remains in the public’s hands, managed by the company. In either case, once a mining company obtains mineral rights, it does not have to pay any royalties to the public on the ore taken out. Former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers calls this “a license to steal,” a characterization hotly denied by the mining industry.
Nevada Mining Association director Russell Fields says the companies make substantial contributions to the state economies in which they operate.
“Mining companies, including those international companies with U.S. subsidiaries, make significant economic contributions to the areas in which they operate—millions spent in exploration and development of property, millions in taxes and other payments to local, state and federal government. In Nevada, mining wages and benefits are the best of any employment sector and have a major impact on the economies of the rural parts of our state.”
Fields also says state and federal reclamation law insure that bonds are posted so the public is not left paying the cost of reclaiming land torn up by mining.