The New Frontier
Has US Mineral Exploration Vanished?

The New Frontier

By Dr. Ralph E. Pray

Mineral exploration and development for the serious small miner have taken a huge turn for the worse in the U S. We have all watched, with varying degrees of alarm, activism, despair and rage, as overlapping layers of laws and regulations pour forth from the political scene, effectively destroying the frontier principles of the 120-year-old American Mining Law.

While the industry digs in its heels to slow down the continuing damage, to point out the pitfalls of sabotaging domestic mineral production, the people who are equipped with the intelligence and the drive to search out and expose new mineral deposits must continue their work. To stop now, to quit just because the going is tougher, will make for sure disaster down the road. There are still many millions of acres of public domain open for exploration and claim location, and undoubtedly there are dozens of valuable mineral deposits yet to be discovered on and near this Federal land. Any delay in bringing forth for the Nation's consumption the vast quantity of resources, the mineral, oil and timber products we use, will weaken both our domestic and foreign capabilities. The exploitation of natural resources is not just for the exploiter; it is for the market place, which calls for the goods: For each miner, there are thousands of machinists, welders, designers, fabricators, and salespersons working on his product. For each oil well, there are tens of thousands of autos, trucks, mechanics, auditors and textile workers, handling and consuming its production. For each tree cut from the forest, an entire chain of industries advances another link.

We, the people who own the land, cannot let the bureaucrats impede mineral production on the land to the point where we are forced beyond our borders to obtain resources we have in abundance. As new costs are placed upon mining claim ownership, and other new Federal burdens enter into each day's mining operation, other countries, laws to make investment in mine operation more profitable. Even Japan, which has practically no mineral wealth, has an increasingly active foreign aid program to assist other nations in searching for minerals while we, effectively, are shutting down our search. We will soon be in competition with Japan for natural resources in third world countries, as we were in Indonesia until late 1941. There is a lesson here.

Another lesson or two can be taken from the most successful prospectors, on the current scene. These are the explorationists who still carry the prospector's pick, but also utilize geochemistry, geophysics and geobotany. There is even a training method for teaching dogs to sniff out sulfide deposits. Classes were taught in geochemical prospecting in Alaska, by a University professor who went from town to city to Native village, beginning in the late 1950s. The California Community college system has ideal facilities for introducing effective prospecting methods to the interested public, and there are dozens of inexpensive books describing sophisticated methods of searching for mineral deposits. Those of us who have, or had, mining claims too poor to support the new financial arid regulatory burdens, will have to find bigger, better ones. There is a new frontier out there, with a gigantic bunch of people huddled behind it who think everything comes from "the store." Let's wade through them, and get back into the field with new ideas, new methods, new hope, and the Old Spirit.

Published in International California Mining Journal, April, 1994
Reprinted with permission of the author
Dr. Ralph Pray, Mining & Metallurgy
805 S Shamrock Ave
Monrovia, CA 91016

Telephone: 626-357-6511
Fax: 626-358-8386