Back to Publications

Access to Western Coal Reserves

Jon M. Cassady, Hugh Hazelwood, Western Coal Development (1973)

Today's America is experiencing the pressures of population growth and economic affluence as never before. This combination has generated an appetite in this country which threatens to exhaust our resources. For the first time it has become apparent that there is a limit to the amount of abuse the ecosystem will take without suffering irreversable damage. This awareness has led to demands that those institutions capable of taking steps to prevent an ecological disaster do so. This has put stresses and strains on these institutions in places where heretofore none have existed. Quite naturally, this has given rise to conflict. One of the conflicts which must be resolved concerns access rights to public lands remaining open to mineral entry under the General Mining Law of 1872.1 This paper will briefly review this conflict and discuss its possible impact on the development of Western coal reserves.


The parties to this controversy, as one might expect, are the miner or mineral developer on the one hand, and the conservationist or environmentalist on the other. The miner's position is that under the General Mining Law of 18722, the public lands remaining open to mineral entry are free and open to exploration and occupation, and that a basic concept implicit in the right to freely enter and explore the open public lands