Who owns the west?

Patented U.S. public land

Mining industry gains title to 3 million acres of lands previously owned by the public

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The hardrock mining industry has acquired the title to an estimated 3.7 million acres of land previously owned by the public and rich in gold, silver, and other precious metals and minerals. Although a moratorium on new mining "patents" - conversion of public lands to private - has been in place since 1994, the government continues to grant pending requests. Since 2000, 15,600 acres of public lands across 12 western states have been converted to private ownership, for a price capped at $5 per acre in 1872. See who has gained title to lands since 1980, 1990, or 2000.

Quick facts about patented lands in The United States

• Acres of federal land, previously public, titled the mining industry: 3,718,326

• Companies and individuals granted patents, total: 60,688

• Dollars paid for each acre: $2.50 or $5

• Land area given away since 1990: 32,267 acres

• Royalties paid to federal government from mines on patented public land: $0

Patents by Decade

Decade Patents GrantedEstimated Acreage
The 2000s12515,614
The 1990s11516,653
The 1980s611162,406
The 1970s30537,486
The 1960s74875,637
The 1950s1,174149,074
The 1940s79456,669
The 1930s1,324124,136
The 1920s4,220318,596
The 1910s7,421451,582
The 1900s15,121789,174
The 1890s16,709793,986
The 1880s11,315510,842
The 1870s3,712213,194