Who owns the west?

Rio Tinto Limited

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Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries are a few of 92,125 beneficiaries of a 131-year-old federal mining law that gives away precious metals, minerals, and even the title to the land itself for less than $10 an acre. Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries own the minerals under an estimated 191,928 acres of claimed land, have gained title to an estimated 11,402 acres of lands previously owned by the public, and have submitted mining plans and notices that encompass 12,021 acres of BLM-managed land, not including the acreages of mines they may operate on Forest Service land. giving Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries more total land holdings (claims and patents) than over 99.5% of all other mining interests.

World Headquarters

55 Collins St., Level 33

Subsidiaries Include

Kennecott Corp (100%)
US Borax & Chem Corp (100%)
Amselco Expl Inc (100%)
Luzenac America Inc (100%)
Rio Tinto Copper Mining Co (100%)
Wyoming Coal Resources (100%)
Cortez Joint Venture (40%)

Partners Include

Robert Rubalcava

Information on subsidiaries and parent companies shown here represents our best estimate of corporate structure at the time of this website release, and are drawn from various publicly available sources. Please report any noted omissions and errors to EWG with a credible source or citation. Thank you.

Overview of Ownership

Statistics on this page include the ownership of subsidiaries. View this page without subsidiary information included.

 ClaimsPatentsMining Plans & Notices
Number10,097 136 56
Estimated Acreage191,928 11,402 12,021

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Source: EWG analysis of US BLM data.

Examples of Mines

These mines are owned by Rio Tinto Limited, its subsidiaries, or its parent company.

Name of MineLocation of MineMine StatusMetal MinedMap Link
Bingham Canyon MineSalt Lake County, UTOpenCopper Oremap
Barney's Canyon Gold MineSalt Lake County, UTOpenGoldmap
Denton RawhideMineral County, NVClosedGoldmap
Greens Creek Silver MineJuneau Borough County, AKOpenSilver-

Source: EWG analysis.



Like all U.S. claimholders, Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries acquired ownership of precious metals and minerals on U.S. public land for about $2 per acre, and maintains possession of the claim with a small per-acre fee, typically $5 each year. Rio Tinto Limited pays no royalties to the federal government for metals and minerals mined from this land.

For Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries:

Claims by State.

StateNumber of ClaimsEstimated AcreageDate(s)
Nevada 7,663147,4551886 - 2003
Wyoming 98814,7591954 - 1995
Utah 67613,9011907 - 1996
California 49710,1731922 - 2002
Montana 2685,5371955 - 1992
Arizona 51031973 - 2002
U.S. Total 10,097191,9281886 - 2003

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Source: EWG analysis of US BLM data.


Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries are some of the 63,768 beneficiaries of a long-standing federal subsidy called "patenting" that allows mining interests to purchase public land for no more than $5 an acre. Since acquiring title to the land, Rio Tinto Limited may have mined it, sold it, leased it, or passed it on to heirs or other corporate interests. Regardless of who owns the property now, the U.S. public has lost all rights- metals, minerals, and title - on land that was once public park or forest.

For Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries:

Patents by State.

StateNumber of PatentsEstimated AcreageDate(s)
California 727,0071905 - 1964
Arizona 242,2821944 - 1977
New Mexico 311,5501935 - 1978
Nevada 53631909 - 1927
Utah 31501944
South Dakota 1501906
U.S. Total 13611,4021905 - 1978

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Source: EWG analysis of US BLM data.

Mining Plans & Notices on BLM Land

Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries are some of the 3,323 mine operators on U.S. BLM lands with mining plans and notices listed as currently active in government records, operating under laws that allow mining interests to extract and sell precious metals and minerals previously held by the public. Rio Tinto Limited may also operate mines on Forest Service lands, which are not contained in the LR2000 database that is the backbone of this website. Because the government often fails to promptly close out records for mines no longer active, active mining may be completed for some of the operations represented by plans and notices in this website. But regardless of the status of mining operations on a particular site, filings of plans and notices are indicative of mining on the property - whether past, present, or planned. Mining operations led by Rio Tinto Limited may well have left behind permanent pollution. In 2001 mines generated 45 percent of all pollution in EPA's Toxic Release Reporting system while accounting for just 0.36 percent of all industrial facilities.

For Rio Tinto Limited and its subsidiaries:

Plans and Notices on BLM land by State.

StateNumber of Plans and Notices on BLM landEstimated AcreageDate(s)
Nevada 3511,9341981 - 2003
California 16401983 - 2002
Utah 1321995
New Mexico 2102002 - 2003
Washington 151988
Arizona 111995
U.S. Total 5612,0211981 - 2003

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Source: EWG analysis of US BLM data.

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.