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Washington Post: Mining firm profits from public lands remain a mystery, new GAO study shows

The federal government has no idea how much gold, copper and other hard-rock minerals are being extracted from public lands each year — nor how much the minerals are worth — because the companies licensed to operate the mines pay no royalties, according to a report the Government Accountability Office will make public Wednesday.

The new report, requested by Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), could spur a renewed push to reform the 140-year-old law governing U.S. hard-rock mining. Under the General Mining Act of 1872, the government charges mining companies $189 to locate a claim and then $140 annually to maintain it after the first year. What the companies extract from public terrain is theirs to sell on the open market.