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Mining Law of 1872, From the Chaffee law of 1866 and the placer law of 1870
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post Jan 29 2010, 01:38 PM
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How did the 1872 act become law and where did it come from?

The history of the 1872 mining law and the laws that formed it (the Chaffee law of 1866 and the placer law of 1870) when the Mining act became law is quite interesting and something many would like to read up on for their own knowledge. Hopefully this information gives everyone an idea where and why the mining law was formed like it was.

To see more details and references check out the full article.
Quote from wikipedia - General Mining Act of 1872
QUOTE
The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold, platinum, and silver, on federal public lands. This law, approved on May 10, 1872, codified the informal system of acquiring and protecting mining claims on public land, formed by prospectors in California and Nevada from the late 1840s through the 1860s, such as during the California Gold Rush. All citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right under the 1872 mining law to locate a lode (hard rock) or placer (gravel) mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry. These claims may be located once a discovery of a locatable mineral is made. Locatable minerals include but are not limited to platinum, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, uranium and tungsten.

Western miners' codes
Miners and prospectors on the California Gold Rush of 1849 found themselves in a legal vacuum. Although the US federal government had laws governing the leasing of mineral land, the United States had only recently acquired California by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and had little presence in the newly acquired territories.

Miners organized their own governments in each new mining camp (for example Great Republic of Rough and Ready), and adopted the Mexican mining laws then existing in California that gave the discoverer right to explore and mine gold and silver on public land. Miners moved from one camp to the next, and made the rules of all camps more or less the same, usually differing only in specifics such as in the maximum size of claims, and the frequency with which a claim had to be worked to avoid being forfeited and subject to being claimed by someone else. California miners spread the concept all over the west with each new mining rush, and the practices spread to all the states and territories west of the Great Plains.

Mining legislation before 1872
Although the practices for open mining on public land were more-or-less universal in the West, and supported by state and territorial legislation, they were still illegal under existing federal law. At the end of the American Civil War, some eastern congressmen regarded western miners as squatters who were robbing the public patrimony, and proposed seizure of the western mines to pay the huge war debt. In June 1865, Representative George W. Julian of Indiana introduced a bill for the government to take the western mines from their discoverers, and sell them at public auction. Representative Fernando Wood proposed that the government send an army to California, Colorado, and Arizona to expel the miners "by armed force if necessary to protect the rights of the Government in the mineral lands." He advocated that the federal government itself work the mines for the benefit of the treasury.

Western representatives successfully argued that western miners and prospectors were performing valuable services by promoting commerce and settling new territory. In 1865, Congress passed a law that instructed courts deciding questions of contested mining rights to ignore federal ownership, and defer to the miners in actual possession of the ground. The following year, Congressional supporters of western miners tacked legislation legalizing lode (hardrock) mining on public land onto a law regarding eastern canal rights. The legislation, known as the "Chaffee laws" after Colorado Territorial representative Jerome B. Chaffee, passed and was signed on July 26, 1866.

Congress extended similar rules to placer mining claims in the "placer law" signed into law on July 9, 1870.

The Mining Law of 1872
The Chaffee law of 1866 and the placer law of 1870 were combined into the General Mining Act of 1872. The mining law of 1866 had given discoverers rights to stake mining claims to extract gold, silver, cinnabar (the principal ore of mercury) and copper. When Congress passed the General Mining Act of 1872, the wording was changed to "or other valuable deposits," giving greater scope to the law.

The 1872 act also granted extralateral rights to lode claims, and fixed the maximum size of lode claims as 1500 feet (457m) long and 600 feet (183m) wide.


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