Full Title: Policy Topics and Background Related to Mining on Federal Lands
Author(s): Brandon S. Tracy
Publisher(s): Congressional Research Service
Publication Date: March 19, 2020
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The 116th Congress is considering multiple proposed changes to U.S. mineral policy. Currently certain types of mineral production on federal lands provide the federal government and some states and industries with sources of revenue, while other production does not generate similar revenue. Proposed changes to federal mineral policy could impact these revenue streams, industries, and states in a variety of ways.
The processes and requirements to mine on federal lands vary by mineral category, surface/subsurface management agencies, and estate ownership. Three main statutes create the three categories of minerals applicable to mining on federal lands. The General Mining Law of 1872 covers locatable (or hardrock) minerals, which are now defined as those minerals not defined by other statutes; typical examples include gold, silver, copper, and gemstones, when not found on acquired lands. Leasable minerals are defined by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, and include coal, phosphate, potassium, and sodium, among others (leasable minerals also include otherwise locatable minerals on acquired land, per the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947). Salable minerals are defined by the Materials Act of 1947, and include common minerals such as sand and gravel.