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Mineral Land Laws of the United States

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MINERAL LAND LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES. Mineral lands of the United States are disposed of under the gen eral laws dating back to 1866. Lands contain ing valuable mineral deposits may be acquired by one of two methods, the first as provided for lode claims and the second as provided for placer claims. The applicant must be a citizen of the United States or have declared his in tention to become a citizen. Each person in the case of an unincorporated association must be similarly qualified and a corporation making mineral entry must be organized under the laws of the United States or of any State or Territory.

Lode claims are those based upon a lode, ledge or vein of mineral-bearing rock and they may include an area of not more than 1,500 linear feet along the course of the vein and not more than 300 on each side of the vein; that is an area of about acres. The law, how ever, recognizes the local laws and customs which may provide for smaller limits in the area to be taken. This method of acquisition is intended to include gold, silver, copper, lead, tin and other similar minerals occurring in veins. One who discovers a mineral deposit may record his claim in the local county rec ords as provided by the State laws or regula tions and he may retain the right of possession indefinitely by performing $100 worth of labor thereon annually or making improvements of equivalent value. Patent from the United States may be obtained by filing mineral entry in the local land office and making proof in ac cordance with the law and the regulations.

Placer claims are those allowed in the case of discovery of mineral deposits not occurring in a lode or a vein. These claims may not ex ceed 20 acres in the case of an individual nor 160 acres by an association of persons. Annual proof of $100 worth of labor or improvement is required as in the case of lode claihis and there must also be proof of improvements of a value not less than $500. Besides the pr'ecious minerals, placer claims have been extended to include deposits of phosphates, oil, gas, etc. Patent is obtained in the same marrner as in the case of lode claims. By the Act of 17 July 1914 Congress provided for agricultural entries in the case of lands classified as containing phosphate, nitrate, potash, oil, gas or asphaltic minerals. This permits the use of the surface of the land for agricultural purposes in such a way as not to interfere with the extraction of these minerals. Mineral lands are supposed to be classified at the time of survey by the sur veyor who indicates the several areas which ap pear to be agricultural or mineral; but lands not so classified as mineral may be acquired under the mineral laws.

The coal land laws provide for the acquisi tion of lands valuable for coal by entry by an individual above the age of 21 who is a citizen of the United States or has declared his inten tion to become such and shall not exceed 160 acres. An association of persons may take 320 acres but each person composing an association must be qualified as in the case of an individual entryman. When an association of not less than four persons each qualified as above shall have expended not less than $5,000 in working and improving a mine or mines of coal upon the public lands, such association may enter not exceeding 640 acres, including such mining im provements. Only one entry of coal lands may

be made by any person or association of per sons.

The land must be paid for at its appraised value according to the estimated amount and character of the coal therein, the price being not less than $10 per acre when situated not more tfian 15 miles from a completed railroad and $20 when situated within 15 miles of a completed railroad.

In the Territory of Alaska coal land can be acquired only by lease in tracts not exceeding 2,560 acres to any person above the age of 21 who is a citizen of the United States or to any association of such persons or to any corpora tion or municipality organized under the laws of the United States or of any State or Terri tory. These leases are offered through adver tisement, competitive bidding or such other method as the Secretary of the Interior may adopt. The lessees shall pay such royalties as may be specified in the lease which shall not be less than two cents per ton and an annual rental at the rate of 25 cents per acre for the first year, 50 cents for the second, third, fourth and fifth years and $1 per acre for every year there after during the continuance of the lease, which may not exceed 50 years, but shall be subject to renewal on such terms and conditions as may be authorized by law at the time of such re newal. The earliest action in regard to the mineral lands of the United States is found in the ordinance of 20 May 1785 for the disposal of lands in the Western Territory passed by Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and provided for the reservation of one-third of all gold, silver, lead and copper mines to be sold or otherwise disposed of. By the Act of 3 March 1807 Congress inaugurated the plan of leasing mineral lands. This method of dealing with the mineral lands was continued in force until the conditions developed by the discovery of gold in California and other Pacific States forced Congress to take more definite action. As a result of long years of investigation Con gress by the Act of 26 July 1866 provided the means for acquiring title to mineral lands, the areas and other conditions of acquisition to be subject to the local customs or rules of miners in the district where the land is located. This method was adopted because in the absence of any definite law miners in each district were forced to organize and adopt some plan for de fending and protecting the rights of those who were discovering and working mineral claims. While there was a similarity in the local rules so adopted there was sufficient variation to make it rather difficult for Congress to fix specific conditions at that time. By gradual de velopments the law in regard to mining and placer claims was fixed as above described.

Under the Acts of Congress of 17 July 1917 and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 8 March 1918 no right to any entry or claim to the public lands will be subject to cancella tion or forfeiture while the applicant is in mili tary service.

There is a general feeling among those in terested in mines and mining that present laws and decisions of the courts are not well adapted to future development and there is a movement on foot for a codification of the mining laws so that they may better apply to the present conditions of the mining indus try.