« ForrigeFortsett »
most reasonable rates, and they shall also be at liberty to employ any United States deputy surveyor to make the survey. The Commissioner of the General Land Office shall also have power to establish the maximum charges for surveys and publication of notices under this act; and in case of excessive charges for publication, he may designate any newspaper published in a land district where mines are situated for the publication of mining notices in such district, and fix the rates to be charged by such paper; and to the end that the Commissioner may be fully informed upon the subject, each applicant shall file with the register a sworn statement of all charges and fees paid by said applicant for publication and surveys, together with all fees and money paid the register and receiver of the land office, which statement shall be transmitted, with the other papers in the case, to the Commissioner of the General Land Office. The fees of the registers and receivers shall be the same as in other cases for similar services. But nothing in this act shall be construed to repeal, impair, or in any way affect the provisions of the "Act granting to A. Sutro the right of way and other privileges to aid in the construction of a draining and exploring tunnel to the Comstock lode in the State of Nevada," approved July twenty-five, eighteen hundred and sixty-six. Provided, That nothing in this act shall be construed to enlarge or affect the rights of either party in regard to any property in controversy at the time of the passage of the act entitled "An act granting the right of way to ditch and canal owners over the public lands, and for other purposes," approved July twenty-six, eighteen hundred and sixty-six, nor shall this affect any right acquired under said act.
It will be seen that this bill differs somewhat from the one which I had the honor to suggest in my last report. In some respects I regard it as superior to that, while in other respects there is still room for difference of opinion. At all events, I consider it the wisest and most beneficent measure that has ever been proposed in Congress on this subject and if it becomes a law, I shall hope to see intelligent men in all the mining communities rally in its favor, give it a fair trial, and acknowledge its great value and importance. One thing which this bill unfortunately fails to do, is to legalize the location of timber and pasture tracts, mill-sites, etc., in connection with mines upon the public lands. This is a practice which has grown up without explicit authority of law in many of our interior districts. It is founded in necessity. The rigid enforcement of the law as it now stands, with regard to the timber on unsurveyed public lands, would almost put a stop to mining operations throughout several States and Territories; and there can be no doubt that, under proper restrictions, the protection of the law should be extended over this essential auxiliary part of mining industry, as much as over the immediate operations of extracting and reducing ore.
With regard to placer mines, the bill does nothing more than facilitate the acquirement of title from the United States, by simplifying the steps prescribed to the applicant for a patent, and by fixing the status of a quartz lode, discovered (as many a quartz lode is discovered) on a placer claim.
With regard to lode mines, three provisions of the greatest importance are established. In the first place, the title of the miner to the surface of his claim is distinctly declared. This, as I have argued in a former report, is really involved in the spirit and letter of the present law, which grants the land and fixes its price by the acre; but courts and juries have held both ways, and the General Land Office at Washington increased the doubt and confusion by patenting the same land over and over again to different parties. Before long we shall have, I trust, a clear and explicit law, which the jury-box cannot defy, and the bench and the bureau cannot manage to misunderstand.
At the same time, rights now existing are fully protected. The proposed law is unjust to no one, since it simply declares that hereafter certain regulations shall be observed which have heretofore been neglected. For a score of years the United States has permitted the miners on the public lands to prescribe their own rules of title and occupancy; and the result has been that, one after another,
the different State and territorial legislatures have been obliged to step in and overrule the selfish, lawless, short-sighted, absurd, and contradictory whims called district mining laws. Sometimes, as in the case of California, true principles have been established and substantial jus tice secured; sometimes, as in the case of Nevada, the attempt has been a failure. Everywhere the lawyers have thriven, and both miners and capitalists have bitterly suffered from this state of things. I trust, before it is too late, the matter will be taken in hand by supreme power, and will be dealt with in the light of universal experience.
The two other great features of the proposed law are equally concerned in the foregoing remarks. They are, the provision for proper record and definition of claims, and the provision for a certain amount of work annually to maintain the possessory title. It is amazing that this great reform has not been effected before now. The investment of capital in mining, without such security as is afforded by certain title, is a farce to outsiders, but a tragedy to the parties concerned. Particularly disastrous hitherto has been the effect of the reigning confusion and corruption upon mine-owners of moderate means. Rich men who owned rich mines could afford to defend themselves at law, and, in many cases, to fee the jury as well as the counsel; but poor men, willing to put their little money and their great industry and energy into the actual development of mines, were liable to become the victims of blackmailers and pirates.
The records of location should be made in such a way that the property can be found again. At present there is often nothing on the record but a date and a name. The essential point-identification of the lode-is dependent on the evidence of those who choose to " recognize," out of a thousand holes in the ground, the particular one which bears, or once bore, the name on the record.
Records should be kept in suitable books, in suitable buildings and under the care of responsible officers. At present, the titles to prop erty worth millions of dollars are to be found in loose sheets, pocketbooks, greasy, singed, torn and illegible old ledgers, or what not, kicking about miners' cabins, groceries, or bar-rooms. The recorders are not responsible, except to "Judge Lynch"; and he only interferes when his friends are wronged. For the Eastern or foreign capitalist there is too frequently neither security nor justice.
Again, and above all, the conditions on which a possessory claim is held ought not to be left entirely to the inhabitants of a mining district. The proposition is laughable when one considers what it involves. The individuals who claim something that belongs to the people of the United States are to fix the conditions on which the United States shall recognize their claim! No wonder that the local regulations of new districts are so drawn as to favor the worst kind of speculation-speculation without capital. Thousands of feet of mining claims are seized and held for sale, without being worked, and honest industry is thus strangled in its cradle.
I hold that the mineral deposits on the public lands are the property of all the people of this country; that the people, with wise liberality, have declared them free to the miner; and that any man who claims to own a mine which he has not bought and is not working, is interfering with that freedom of mining which the people have decreed.
Many districts are now languishing, with paralyzed industry, because all the ground has been covered with wild-cat locations, so that, if any one opens a mine, and by good luck and hard work makes it pay a
profit, some claimant is sure to start up, with documents and witnesses, to show that the present "Golconda" is the same as the ancient" Mary Ann," which he located once on a time and then abandoned, or which he bought from the original locator and abandoner, when the latter was "dead broke," and wanted to get to the States. This bill, if it becomes a law, will put an end to such mockery of mining within a year from its passage. It is not, indeed, to be expected that much actual development would be accomplished directly by requiring twenty-five dollars' worth of work every year on a claim; but it would no longer be possible for speculative but impecunious individuals to hold thousands of "feet" of mining property, without doing any work upon them. The door would be opened to honest industry, and slammed in the face of greedy idleness and fraud.
But it will be said that many of our mining districts have properly regulated these matters already, providing for due safety of titles, and requiring a certain amount of work to maintain the ownership of claims. This is true; and it is but right that all the districts shall be forced to do what these have done. The citizens of the United States or the capitalists of Europe, investing money in our mines, should be as much protected in one county or district as in another. What do they know of the differences of local regulations, which do not exist in any lawbook or official record whatever, and which may be changed at any time by a mass-meeting of interested parties?
But it may be said, further, that no universal rule could be devised to cover the points named. This I doubt. If it is true at all, it is true with regard to the amount of work required to hold a claim. The amount which would seem reasonable in one district might, it is said, prove burdensome in another. I think the amount need be little more than nominal; and the alternative of paying a small sum in lieu of the work would relieve the case from possible hardship. It is not the amount of work or money; it is the vigorous requirement of something, that I consider necessary. Let the United States at least declare that a claim is forfeited by total abandonment for one year. This was declared, some two or three years ago, on grounds of common seuse and public policy, by Judge Beatty, at Austin, Nevada; and that decision seemed to me profoundly wise and immensely important. But the Supreme Court of Nevada has since reversed it; and the rights of the United States and of enterprising industry are again at the mercy of blackmailers, quartz pirates, and wild-cat operators.
By Senator Stewart's bill, the mining lands would be put, so far as the nature of the case permits, in the same category as the agricultural lands of the public domain. The Government says to both farmer and miner: "Occupy and use, and you may possess." But the miner, in consideration of the peculiar risk and hardship of his undertaking, is the more favored of the two. No limit is set to the amount he may occupy, use, and either hold in perpetual possessory title, or acquired as the privileged purchaser at a fixed, low price. It is only demanded of him that he shall declare his claims distinctly, not take so much in any one place as to exclude others entirely, and not defeat the object of all the mining laws by abandoning his work while still claiming the exclusive privileges attendant upon bona-fide work, and upon nothing else. With the liberal grants made to him, he ought to be satisfied. If he is really a miner, he will be satisfied. If he is merely a broken-down speculator, who calls himself a miner, but whose real business is to locate, or buy, hold, "stock," and sell, paper mines, he will probably grumble, because under this law his profits may be curtailed.
Doubtless some minor points in the bill would be found to require modification to insure its smooth working. Those may be left to the indications of future experience. In its main features it is an eminently wise and salutary measure.* * Senator Stewart has displayed both courage and judgment in its preparation, and has given new proof of intelligent, earnest devotion to the true interests of the mining industry.
* Since the above remarks were written this bill has failed, for want of time, in the Forty-first Congress, and has been introduced anew in the Forty-second. I trust it may receive prompt and favorable action. The evils which it is calculated to remove are the most pernicious of all which beset the business of mining west of the Missouri River.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF MINING DISTRICTS.
Professor W. P. Blake, in a note to his Catalogue of California Minerals, pointed out that the mining districts of the Pacific slope are arranged in parallel zones, following the prevailing direction of the mountain ranges. This interesting generalization has been more fully illustrated and connected with the geological history of the country by Mr. Clarence King, who sums up the observed phenomena as follows:
The Pacific coast ranges upon the west carry quicksilver, tin, and chromic iron The next belt is that of the Sierra Nevada and Oregon Cascades, which, upon their west slope, bear two zones, a foot-hill chain of copper mines, and a middle line of gold deposits. These gold veins and the resultant placer mines extend far into Alaska, characterized by the occurrence of gold in quartz, by a small amount of that metal which is entangled in iron sulphurets, and by occupying splits in the upturned metamorphic strata of the Jurassic age. Lying to the east of this zone, along the east base of the Sierras, and stretching southward into Mexico, is a chain of silver mines, containing comparatively little base metal, and frequently included in volcanic rocks. Through Middle Mexico, Arizona, Middle Nevada, and Central Idaho is another line of silver mines, mineralized with complicated association of the base metals, and more often occurring in older rocks. Through New Mexico, Utah, and Western Montana lies another zone of argentiferous galena lodes. To the east, again, the New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana gold belt is an extremely well-defined and continuous chain of deposits.
These seven longitudinal zones or chains of mineral deposits must not, in my opinion, be held to constitute a complete classification. The belts of the Coast Range and the west slope of the Sierra are well-defined, both geologically and topographically; but it is not so easy to separate into distinct groups the occurrences of gold and silver east of the Sierra. For instance, the gold of Eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana, together with such occurrences in Nevada as those of the Silver Peak and New Pass districts, and numerous instances of sporadic occurrence of particular ores of silver or argentiferous base metals, cannot be brought within the classification above given. Either more zones must be recog nized, or a greater mineralogical variety must be acknowledged in those already laid down. The latter alternative is, I think, the more reasonable. According to the principles set forth in a discussion of mineral deposits in my last report, it appears evident that the agencies which affect the general constitution of geological formations are far wider in their operation than those which cause the formation of fissures; and that the causes influencing the filling of fissures are still more local in their peculiarities than those which form the fissures themselves. Thus, of the area covered by rocks of a given epoch, more or less uniform in lithological character, only a small portion may have been exposed to conditions allowing deposits of useful minerals, even when such deposits are contemporaneous, as in the case of coal. Still more limited is the field for the formation of fissures; but it must be freely confessed that in the case before us, the corrugation of half the continent into parallel mountain ranges offers good grounds for the expectation of vast longitudinal systems of fissures. When we come to consider the filling of these fissures, however, it is evident that the mineralogical character of the vein-material must vary, to some extent, as to the gangue, but to a still greater extent as to the nature of the ores. Even single mines, in the course of extensive exploitation, have produced ores differing as