In 1872 the federal government passed a law that enabled prospectors for gold and silver to claim up to 160 acres of federal land if they worked it. Free. No royalties. A major purpose was to open up Western lands for expansion and settlement. Since then, and by now 152 years later, the law remains in place. Current regulations require permits and environmental standards, but otherwise mine companies pay no royalties, unlike coal, gas, oil on federal lands.
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