Discrepancy with public stance
Behind the Scenes, Babbitt Blocks for
Multi-National Mining Conglomerates
by Steve Miller
copyright © 1997, Electric Nevada
|In public, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt regularly complains that current U.S. mining laws require him to cooperate in a "bilking of the taxpayer" to the benefit of international mining consortiums.|
| Away from the spotlight, however,
the Secretary actively uses his authority to speed the
virtual giveaway of federal mineral rights to these very
same billion-dollar companies.
That's the discrepancy revealed in documents obtained by Electric Nevada this week.
At least twice during Babbitt's tenure in office, multi-national mining conglomerates active in northeastern Nevada's rich Carlin Trend have sought to acquire new mineral rights in the gold and silver belt inexpensively through land exchanges with the Bureau of Land Management.
And both times, when protests were filed on ground the swaps simply gave valuable mineral rights away to the mining firms for free, Babbitt intervened, dismissing the protests and blocking any further administrative appeals against the transfers.
Under federal regulations, the Secretary of the Interior can step in and respond directly to any protest against a DOI agency's decision. When he does so, the matter can no longer be appealed to the department's Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA).
Charles Hancock, a critic of current federal land-swap practices, says he
can recall no Interior
Secretary before Babbitt using his authority to block
protests on land cases. Hancock, for years before his
1989 retirement, was in charge of appraisals on all
federal land in Nevada.
be compensated for it.
The selected lands are located in a geologic structure
known throughout the Carlin Trend to produce gold and
mineral estate in thousands of acres of public land
through land exchanges.
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