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Bush selling gov't land to Mining companies at 1872 prices

TheDenverChannel.com - News - Mining Companies Paying 1872 Prices For Public Lands

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. -- The ruddy slopes of 12,392-foot Mount Emmons loom over this town, drawing hikers, backcountry skiers and snowshoers. But to residents such as Jim Starr, they also stand for what is wrong with the nation's antiquated mining laws.

Those laws allowed the Bush administration to sell 155 acres of public land on the "Red Lady" to a mining company for less than $900. The land has deposits of molybdenum, a gray metal used to make steel, alloys and lubricants.

"It's a huge threat. If anyone did put a mine in there, it's hard to imagine that it would not destroy this area," said Starr, a lawyer and Democratic chairman of Gunnison County's board of commissioners.

The sale was made possible by an 1872 mining law that lets the government sell, for just $2.50 or $5 an acre, public lands that contain minerals. This land sale, known as a patent, gives companies absolute title to the property.