The Old Mining Law and the New Gold Rush

The articles "Gold Rush Poses Threat to Land" and "Sides Dig In on Mine Law Debate," March 20, would make one conclude that things are out of control and we must do something. This is sadly misleading. Having been through the entire program of permitting, operating, and reclaiming a heap leach mine in Montana, I know that the requirements are very thorough.

The recent agreement of Viceroy Gold the article says "may be a model for the future" is simply what all states have required for some time and doesn't need the federal government to do it again.

With respect to economics of land management: The jobs we provided would never have appeared if every claim (600 feet by 1,500 feet) had to pay a large annual fee to hold it. Most discoveries have been made by individuals who persisted over long periods to find an economical deposit. In our case, a lone miner spent 20 years before being able to combine his findings with an improved gold price and new technology.

We need to seriously look at how we can best continue to find, protect, and develop all of our natural resources. It is possible that the 1872 US Mining Law has served us well and needs only minor modifications. We don't throw out the Constitution because it is old.

C.A. Dickey, Irving, Texas

The articles on mining touch my perspective nerve. Isn't the degree of "threat to land" proportional to numbers, distribution, and operational size? How many people could drive to a gold-mining operation? Should we stop gold mining because most of it is used for unnecessary jewelry? What about the monetary gold in Fort Knox?

The articles are accompanied by a photo of a large, unidentified mine in Arizona with the caption mentioning "low-cost development rights." The claim is that hard-rock mining companies are freeloaders. The aerial photo is actually of a copper mining operation, and everyone in this country is touched by copper.

Companies pay a bundle of taxes and the downstream economic impact is enormous. The focus by environmentalists and politicians on "low" upfront land costs represents bandwagon political opportunism.

Wes Peirce, Tucson, Ariz.

US lacks farmers The article "Farmland Fadeout," March 21, is incomplete in that it fails to focus on the main reason for farmland conversion: disappearing farmers.

Although the goal of many groups to preserve America's most strategic asset - its farmland - is commendable, many ignore the real problem. What if there is no one to manage all these saved acres?

Abysmally low prices, long hours without reward, and a wide chasm between farm- and nonfarm-sector income accelerates the sale of farmland to developers. Can you blame the farmer who cannot meet payments, can never take vacations, and sees prices lower than in 1978?

Government is also contributing to the problem with regressive federal inheritance-tax policies, brutal local property taxes not on what the land is used for but on its potential, and insensitive regulatory policies.

New property owners come knocking at my door, asking if I would like to till their newly purchased farm as they hate to see the land idle.

I politely tell them no, as I've got enough work of my own and they should take care of it themselves. Yet they persist, saying they would like to see oats or corn or hay or whatever, to try and complete their dream of being a "farmer."

Too much land, not enough farmers.

Frank J. Bertrand, Towanda, Pa.

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