NAME: Tyler L. Weidlich*
Basic economic principles dictate that resources are most efficiently allocated if "the prices of their use reflect the full costs to society." n186 Under the 1872 Mining Law, access and rights to federal lands and minerals remains virtually cost-free to the industry, as subsidies allow mining companies exceedingly inexpensive access to federal lands and development of its minerals. Consequently, more mining occurs than would otherwise occur under a free market at the expense of other types of land uses and values. n187 The result is an inefficient allocation of resources and, ultimately, a greatly diminished return to the public. While such incentives may compensate mining companies for the often exceedingly expensive exploration and development costs, who will compensate the public for generations of environmental degradation and toxic waste liability?
What remains perplexing is how this policy, clearly absent in all other extractive industries and long removed from modern social and economic context, has endured for over 130 years. [n190] As the Mining Law continues to devolve into regulatory obscurity and stops serving the industry, and even major industry players join the ranks of reform, n191 one cannot help but to be optimistic that much needed, comprehensive reform lies ahead. However, in the interim, fiscal and environmental abuse continues to accrue, and the public inevitably bears this liability.