UNITED STATES Don’t mess with history—or hardrock mining profits

Mar 01, 2008 | 01:56 PM |

Mining is a dirty business. Mines can threaten habitats, leak toxic chemicals, pollute drinking water or scar a landscape.

In 1872, though, President Ulysses S. Grant had different concerns. Following the Civil War, Grant wanted to promote a westward expansion not seen since the Gold Rush. To do so, he offered a sweetheart deal to anyone interested in mining federally owned land for the nation's abundant supply of gold, silver, copper and zinc, among other minerals. He directed Interior Secretary Columbus Delano to sell public land to mining companies for as little as $2.50 an acre—a rate that, incredibly, is still on the books today. Recently, the federal government sold 155 acres in Crested Butte, Colo., to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Phoenix, for $790—or a little over $5 an acre. According to the company, the land could yield $158 million in after-tax profits over 11 years.....





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