The Battle for Natural Resources

October 28, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


There's a new gold rush taking place in the West, and it's renewed an old conflict over how the government manages its natural resources. Should development and commodity production be the government's primary objectives? Or should they be resource management and preservation?

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Out on the West's wide open spaces, America is now replaying the colorful frontier days of the great gold and silver rushes. With gold now selling for $400 an ounce, miners are using new technologies to extract low-grade ore from barren sagebrush flats and trout-rich mountain streams. Nevada's gold production alone has reached 2 million ounces per year—worth at least $800 million. Modern-day prospectors, hoping for even more riches, staked 50,000 mining claims in Nevada last year.

Although most of the gold is coming from lands owned by the U.S. government, the government does not control where the mining takes place, nor does it collect a share of the wealth that gold miners take from public resources. That's because the General Mining Law of 1872, signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, still gives prospectors virtually free rein to explore federally owned lands, stake mining claims and buy potentially rich government lands for a mere $5 an acre.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Natural Resources
May 11, 2018  Water Crisis in the West
Dec. 20, 2011  The Resource Curse
Dec. 09, 2011  Water Crisis in the West
Jan. 18, 2011  Disappearing Forests
Aug. 2008  Race for the Arctic
Feb. 2008  Looming Water Crisis
Oct. 28, 1988  The Battle for Natural Resources
Mar. 21, 1951  International Control of Essential Materials
Oct. 11, 1935  Raw Materials and World Peace
Forests and Rangelands
Land Resources and Property Rights
Oil and Natural Gas