Who owns the west?

Mining claims in Montana

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The hardrock mining industry owns gold, silver, and other precious metals and minerals beneath an estimated 245,869 acres of U.S. public land in Montana, resources worth millions 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 Montana

• Total number of claim-holders: 1,630

• Acres of public land claimed by the mining industry, estimated: 245,869 (42 times Helena (5760 acres))

• 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: 2

• Percentage of claims held by foreign companies: 25%

• 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 Montana Ranked by Acres Claimed

Companies have been consolidated to account for subsidiaries. View this table without consolidation.

 Company/IndividualHeadquartersNumber of ClaimsAcreage ClaimedDate(s) Filed
1 Beartooth Platinum Corp. World HQ in Canada 1,055 21,186 1999 to 2001
2 MMC Norilsk Nickel of Russia World HQ in Russia 849 15,567 1968 to 1991
3 Sterling Mining Company Coeur d'Alene, ID 444 7,744 1958 to 2003
4 Graymont Western US Inc Salt Lake City, UT 383 7,474 1979 to 2003
5 ASARCO, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico World HQ in Mexico 346 7,117 1890 to 1998
6 Larry Pilster Alzada, MT 68 6,600 1965 to 2003
7 Apollo Gold Inc Denver, CO 316 6,478 1939 to 1997
8 Edward Pilster Alzada, MT 65 6,460 1965 to 2003
9 Madge Pilster Alzada, MT 60 6,360 1965 to 2003
10 Helen Pilster Alzada, MT 59 6,300 1965 to 2003
See all claim holders in Montana

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


Counties in Montana Ranked by Acres Claimed

 CountyNumber of ClaimsEstimated Acreage  
1 Sweet Grass County 1,561 30,419 details map
2 Jefferson County 1,354 28,920 details map
3 Beaverhead County 598 23,902 details map
4 Madison County 1,061 21,402 details map
5 Broadwater County 876 19,817 details map
6 Stillwater County 759 16,055 details map
7 Carter County 272 15,320 details map
8 Lincoln County 919 13,942 details map
9 Granite County 443 13,484 details map
10 Lewis and Clark County 422 10,866 details map
See all counties


Examples of Mines in Montana

Name of MineLocation of MineMine StatusMetal MinedOwner or Parent Company of Owner
Beal Mountain MineSilver Bow County, MTClosedGoldPegasus Gold Corp
Golden Sunlight Gold MineJefferson County, MTOpenGoldPlacer Dome US Inc
Continental Copper MineSilver Bow County, MTOpenCopper OreMontana Resources/ASARCO
Kendall MineFergus County, MTClosedGold and SilverCanyon Resources Corporation
Montana Tunnels MineJefferson County, MTOpenGoldApollo Gold Corporation
East Boulder MineStillwater County, MTOpenPlatinum groupMMC Norilsk Nickel of Russia
Stillwater MineStillwater County, MTOpenPlatinum groupStillwater Mining Company
Basin Creek MineJefferson County, MTClosedGoldPegasus Gold Corp
Zortman Landusky MinePhillips County, MTClosedGoldPegasus Gold Corp
Troy MineLincoln County, MTClosedCopper OreASARCO
See more mines in Montana

Source: EWG analysis.



Source: EWG analysis of Bureau of Land Management's Land and Mineral Records 2000 (LR2000) data system. For claims, acreages are estimated based on maximum allowable size of claims. For patents, acreages are taken directly from the LR2000 database where available, and are estimated based on maximum allowable size of claim that preceded the patent where acreages are not noted in LR2000. All notices are assumed to be five acres in size, and the size of plans are calculated directly as the size of the land represented by the legal land description in the LR2000 database. The acreages we estimate through these methods would tend to overestimate the actual amount. We welcome corrections here, and would welcome a federal data management system that included the acreages involved in these important federal land transactions.