Who owns the west?

Mining claims on U.S. public lands

Precious metals and minerals beneath an estimated 5.6 million acres of public land, owned by the mining industry

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The hardrock mining industry owns gold, silver, and other precious metals and minerals beneath an estimated 5.6 million acres of U.S. public land, resources worth billions of dollars a year, acquired for as little as $0.84 per acre and held in perpetuity for a yearly rental fee as low as $0.62 an acre. Under a 132-year-old law originally intended to spur development of the West, an industry dominated by a handful of multinational corporations pays no federal royalties, and leaves behind a landscape of dramatically diminished value, scarred with tunnels, pits, and toxic waste piles.

Quick facts about mining claims in The United States

• Total number of claim-holders: 28,408

• Acres of public land claimed by the mining industry, estimated: 5,569,929 (2.5 times Yellowstone National Park)

• Dollars paid for each acre: as little as $0.84, and as little as $0.62 yearly rental fee

• Reimbursement to the federal government for gold, silver and other precious metals taken from public land: $0

• Companies owning minerals on at least 10,000 public acres: 201

• Percentage of claims held by foreign companies: 21%

• Profits accrued in 2002 among top corporate claim-holders: $4 billion

• Single greatest factor controlling how much public land is claimed at any time: The price of gold

• Land area ever claimed by the mining industry nationally, estimated: 79 million acres (the size of New Mexico)

EWG analysis of data compiled by the Bureau of Land Management.

Top Mining Claim Owners in The United States Ranked by Acres Claimed

This table does not account for the consolidation of companies. View this table with consolidation.

 Company/IndividualHeadquartersNumber of ClaimsAcreage ClaimedDate(s) Filed
1 Newmont Mining Corp Denver, CO 13,960 274,295 1886 to 2003
2 Cortez Joint Venture Crescent Valley, NV 6,761 131,223 1886 to 2003
3 Placer Dome Inc World HQ in Canada 5,181 100,791 1955 to 2003
4 Homestake Mining Company Walnut Creek, CA 3,143 73,808 1905 to 2002
5 Phelps Dodge Mining Co Phoenix, AZ 3,548 67,592 1906 to 2000
6 Power Resources Inc Glenrock, WY 3,150 64,985 1953 to 2002
7 ASARCO, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico World HQ in Mexico 2,942 56,739 1890 to 2003
8 Round Mtn Gold Corp Sparks, NV 2,057 52,510 1905 to 2003
9 Dr Gordon Reynolds Price, UT 300 48,000 1997 to 1999
10 Carl Pescio Elko, NV 2,277 46,996 1994 to 2003
See all claim holders in The United States

Some of the claimants in this table may be in partnership with other individuals or companies with a claim to the same land.


State Ranking

 StateNumber of ClaimsEstimated Acreage  
1 Nevada 112,245 2,508,276 details map
2 Arizona 23,626 641,883 details map
3 California 20,103 635,225 details map
4 Utah 9,695 367,244 details map
5 Wyoming 12,923 353,499 details map
6 Idaho 10,610 260,185 details map
7 Montana 10,429 245,869 details map
8 Oregon 5,729 191,391 details map
9 New Mexico 6,562 170,231 details map
10 Colorado 5,107 123,457 details map
11 Washington 2,297 50,632 details map
12 South Dakota 939 22,036 details map


Examples of Mines in The United States

Name of MineLocation of MineMine StatusMetal MinedOwner or Parent Company of Owner
Chino Copper MineGrant County, NMSuspendedCopper OrePhelps Dodge
Mineral RidgeEsmeralda County, NVOpenGoldGolden Phoenix Minerals, Inc.
Betze-post (goldstrike) MineEureka County, NVOpenGoldBarrick Gold Corporation
Tyrone Copper (sx-ew) MineGrant County, NMOpenCopper OrePhelps Dodge
Delamar MineOwyhee County, IDSuspendedSilver oresKinross Gold Corporation
PicachoImperial County, CAClosedGoldGlamis Gold Ltd.
Pend Oreille MinePend Oreille County, WAClosedLead and/or Zinc OreTeck Cominco Limited
Fort Knox Gold MineFairbanks North Star Borough County, AKOpenGoldKinross Gold Corporation
Mt. Pass Mine & MillSan Bernardino County, CAOpenRare earthsMolycorp
Daisy GoldNye County, NVClosedGoldGlamis Gold, Ltd.
See more mines in The United States

Source: EWG analysis.