Federal Circuit Holds No Taking Claim Where Miner Fails to Comply with Reasonable Mining Regulations on Public Land

November 21, 2013

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently affirmed a grant of summary judgment against an Oregon miner who had brought a pro se takings claim after being removed from public land, on which he held four unpatented mining claims, for failure to comply with applicable regulations.

Under federal law and regulations, ownership of an unpatented mining claim is subject to numerous regulations “reasonably incident to mining,” including payment of an annual maintenance fee or performance of at least $100 worth of mining labor on the claim.  Finding no evidence of either payment of the fee or mining activity on Michael’s claims in years, BLM personnel removed Michael’s mining equipment and trailer from the public land his mining claims covered.  Michael brought an inverse condemnation lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for the confiscation of his equipment and the “taking of [his] livelihood.”

The CFC granted summary judgment in favor of the government, which the Federal Circuit affirmed.  The Federal Circuit held that the BLM’s decisions to remove Michael and invalidate his mining claims “were permissible [r]egulation of property rights pursuant to mining laws and regulations.”  The Federal Circuit explained that “[r]egulation of property rights does not ‘take’ private property when an individual’s reasonable, investment-backed expectations can continue to be realized as long as he complies with reasonable regulatory restrictions.”

The opinion can be found here.

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