Profits made from mining on public lands

Top Mining Companies on BLM land in the United States Ranked by Acres Affected



US m$ (2005)

Acres of

1) Phelps Dodge




2) Barrick Gold Corp.




3) Newmont Mining




4) Kinross


23.8 (2003)


5) Rio Tinto








*Unable to obtain profit information that separates out earnings in U.S.

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Section 2. Ripoffs and Giveaways

Mining the federal treasury - twice. The federal land transaction data analyzed by the Environmental Working Group shows that for as little as $0.84 an acre, 4,033 companies and individuals have claimed mineral rights on public land in Arizona (641,883 acres), and 2,680 companies and individuals have gained the deed to Arizona public lands (221,056 additional acres). This giveaway allows these interests to mine the federal treasury not once, but potentially twice -- first by obtaining control of our valuable public property for rock-bottom prices, and then by leaving taxpayers with devastated land, contaminated water and millions of dollars in cleanup costs. Much of Arizona's public land is not even controlled by Arizona interests.

  • All told, the industry holds the right to claim one of every 11 acres of land in the entire U.S., and pay a token fee to the federal government for what can be billions of dollars of precious metals on public lands.
  • The mining industry returns to the federal government less of its sales revenue than any other industry operating on public land. Data from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) shows that the hardrock mining industry returned to the federal government 2.3 percent of its sales, compared to between six and 67 percent for timber, oil and gas, and coal industries (BLM Annual Report 2002).
  • Mining companies can gain ownership of literally billions of dollars of minerals on public land for just dollars an acre, and have received government payoffs running into the millions of dollars to forfeit the right to mine on a property of particular value to the public. In just one case, on April 2, 2004, Crested Butte, Colorado residents discovered that the federal government had sold 155 acres near the town to the Phelps Dodge mining company for just $875, despite a Phelps Dodge estimate that the land could produce up to $158 million in after-tax profits over 11 years (Lipsher 2004). For the equivalent of $5.64 per acre, Phelps Dodge acquired lands near a town where prices range as high as $100,000 for a tenth of an acre ($1,000,000 an acre) (map).
  • The public continues to fund cleanups at major abandoned mine sites across the West, some of which were orphaned as recently as five years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that billions of dollars are needed to protect drinking water supplies across the west from mine waste.

From Report: Who Owns the West?
recommended reading for anyone who wants to know the data on mining.

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