The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (30 U.S.C. § 181 et seq.) establishes the authority and guidelines for leasing public lands for mining operations, including oil, gas, coal, and other non-energy leasable minerals. It requires that the extraction of these minerals from public lands be done through a competitive bidding process and that the lessee pays royalties to the federal government. The act also specifies the terms and conditions for the leases, the rights and responsibilities of the lessee, and the process for transferring leases. However, this act does not typically apply to private mineral deeds between individuals, which are governed by state law.
The General Mining Act of 1872 (30 U.S.C. § 22-54) allows U.S. citizens to prospect for minerals on federal public lands and to stake a claim if they discover a valuable mineral deposit. If the prospector meets the statutory requirements, they may obtain a patent (full ownership) of the land or continue to mine it while paying an annual fee. The act has been criticized for not requiring environmental protections or royalties for extraction of minerals. It is important to note that this act applies to public lands and not typically to private transactions involving mineral deeds.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA; 30 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq.) establishes a program for regulating surface coal mining and reclamation activities. It sets forth minimum standards for land restoration after mining operations are completed and requires mine operators to obtain permits and post bonds to ensure that the land will be restored. While SMCRA primarily addresses environmental aspects of coal mining, it also has implications for the rights conveyed in a mineral deed, as the grantee must comply with all federal, state, and local regulations, including environmental standards and reclamation requirements.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA; 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1787) directs the Secretary of the Interior to manage public land resources for various uses, including mineral development, while protecting the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values. FLPMA does not directly affect private mineral deeds but establishes the framework for federal land use planning that can indirectly impact mineral rights and development on adjacent private lands.