Who owns the west?

Patented U.S. public land

Mining industry gains title to 3.7 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

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


Top Mining Patent Purchasers in The United States Ranked by Acres Patented

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

 Company/IndividualHeadquartersNumber of PatentsEstimated AcreagePatent Date(s)
1 AMCOL International Corp Arlington Heights, IL 245 21,681 1950 to 2001
2 Weber Oil Company unknown 9 21,120 1955 to 1959
3 National Lead Co unknown 197 19,597 1942 to 1967
4 Union Oil Company of California Sugar Land, TX 2 18,125 1986
5 John W Savage Rifle, CO 15 17,000 1986 to 1987
6 Joseph L Fox (Trustee) Lakewood, CO 13 16,922 1986
7 Phelps Dodge Mining Co Phoenix, AZ 151 15,715 1906 to 2001
8 Rio Tinto Limited World HQ in Australia 136 11,402 1905 to 1978
9 Energy Res Tech Land Denver, CO 6 11,012 1986
10 Dresser Industries Houston, TX 14 10,869 1982 to 1989
See all patent purchasers in The United States

 

State Ranking Ranked by Acres Patented

 StateNumber of PatentsEstimated Acreage  
1Colorado24,6531,233,635detailsmap
2California7,666625,804detailsmap
3Montana7,809404,469detailsmap
4Utah5,816312,250detailsmap
5Nevada3,927233,616detailsmap
6Arizona3,799221,056detailsmap
7Idaho3,075203,242detailsmap
8Wyoming1,408157,639detailsmap
9South Dakota1,850105,533detailsmap
10New Mexico1,84997,765detailsmap
11Oregon89369,711detailsmap
12Washington1,02353,607detailsmap

 

Examples of Mines in The United States

Name of MineLocation of MineMine StatusMetal MinedOwner or Parent Company of Owner
SummitvilleRio Grande County, COClosedGoldGalactic Resources
Thompson Creek Molybdenum MineCuster County, IDOpenMolybdenumThompson Creek Mining Company
Midas Gold MineElko County, NVOpenGoldNewmont Mining
Mineral RidgeEsmeralda County, NVOpenGoldGolden Phoenix Minerals, Inc.
Florence MinePinal County, AZClosedCopper OreBhp Billiton
Stone Cabin MineOwyhee County, IDSuspendedGold and SilverKinross Gold Corporation
Basin Creek MineJefferson County, MTClosedGoldPegasus Gold Corp
VesuviusCameron County, TXManganeseVesuvius Usa
JamestownStanislaus County, CAClosedGoldSonora Mining Corporation
Silverlake MineSan Bernardino County, CAClosedIron oreHahm International, Inc
See more mines in The United States

Source: EWG analysis.

 

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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.