A federal court recently held that environmental groups have no standing to bring claims alleging a violation of the Mining Law of 1872. The case involved a uranium mine on Forest Service land for which a permit had been granted in 1986. The mining company then suspended operations in 1992 when uranium prices fell. In 2010, the Forest Service designated the area around the mine as a Traditional Cultural Property based on its significance to the Havasupai Tribe and in 2012 the Department of the Interior withdrew the area from eligibility under the Mining Law.
Shortly thereafter, the Forest Service granted a prior 2011 request by the mining company to resume operations after determining that, notwithstanding the withdrawal of the area, the company had valid existing rights in the mine. The environmental groups challenged that conclusion, and the court held that they had no standing to pursue an alleged violation of the Mining Law because their interests did not fall within the zone interests protected by that law. As noted by the court, “the Mining Law’s ‘obvious intent was to reward and encourage the discovery of minerals that are valuable in an economic sense.’”