Feds Sell Colorado Land to Mining Firm at Rock-Bottom Price

Citing a provision in the federal Mining Act of 1872, the Bush administration has sold 155 acres of federal land near the resort community of Crested Butte, Colo., to a multinational mining company for $875. “For less than $1,000, Phelps Dodge has acquired 150 acres of federal property next to a resort town where a tenth-of-an-acre lot is selling for $100,000,” said Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt. The Mining Act requires the federal government to sell mining patents — which function, effectively, as a deed to the land — at $5 per acre, provided the mining company shows that the mine will be a viable business. Crested Butte officials and environmentalists, who have been fighting against the prospect of a mine on neighboring Mount Emmons for more than 30 years, say Phelps Dodge has itself acknowledged it is unlikely, under current market conditions, that a molybdenum mine on Emmons would make economic sense. They say the company simply wants the rights to the land, should market conditions change. There is currently a nationwide moratorium on mining patents, but federal courts ruled that the Emmons patent, proposed in 1992, could be grandfathered in.