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August 4, 1999 
Controversial millsite issue focus of Congressional hearing
Washington, D.C.— The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources yesterday received testimony on an opinion by the Solicitor for the U.S. Department of Interior interpreting the Mining Law of 1872, with respect to millsites, which would severely impact mining proposals on public lands, according to U.S. Congressman Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada).  In addition, the Subcommittee examined the question of mineral royalties and what constitutes a fair return to the Treasury for use of public lands for mining.

“If allowed to stand, the Solicitor’s opinion will hurt the domestic mining industry,” said Gibbons, a member of the Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee.  “This opinion, coupled with the price of gold at a new 30-year low, could seriously damage Nevada’s second largest industry.”

“The Solicitor obviously has problems with mining on our public lands,” added Gibbons.  “But I will not stand idly by while he destroys the lives of my constituents.  If the Solicitor really wants to know what his actions will do, then he should come with me to Nevada and see for himself what will happen to the families and the hardworking men and women in Nevada who depend on the mining industry to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children.”

“It is encouraging that the solicitor has finally decided to bring his problems with the mining law to Congress, to be debated in the light of day, before the American public,” continued Gibbons.  “This was my chance to tell the Solicitor, face-to-face, how important this issue is to Nevada.  The Interior Department’s ruling will render the Mining Law virtually meaningless and could feasibly shut down all hard rock mining operations and projects.  This could mean the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment throughout the West.”

The Solicitor’s opinion interpreted a section of the Mining Law of 1872 to restrict 5-acre millsite claims to one for every lode claim developed.  Although the Solicitor maintains that the mining law is clear on the millsite issue, this ruling appears to counter past practices of the Department of the Interior and contradicts both the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service manuals, which state that as many 5-acre millsites as are necessary for the safe and practical operation of a mine may be granted (without regard to any lode claim to millsite ratio).  The qualification for millsite validity has always been that the nonmineral-bearing public land so claimed must be used and occupied for mining or milling-related purposes.