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The u.s. general mining law of 1872 was created to encourage mineral exploration and development on federal lands in the western United States, offer an opportunity to acquire clear titles to mines already being worked, and to help settle the American West. The law permitted free access to individuals and/or corporations to prospect for rocks, ores, and minerals on public lands and allowed them, after making a discovery, to stake a claim on the deposit sanctioning the development of ores and minerals from that site (originally applying to all minerals except coal).

Federal lands acquired by treaty, cession, or purchase as part of the general territory of the United States, including lands that passed out of but reverted back to federal ownership, were specifically included in ...

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