Q. What are locatable, leasable, and salable minerals?
A. Locatable minerals are minerals for which the right to explore, develop, and extract mineral resources is established by the staking of mining claims, under the General Mining Law of 1872. Examples of locatable minerals include metallic minerals (i.e., gold, silver copper, zinc, etc.) and non-metallic minerals (i.e., certain limestones, gypsum, diatomaceous earth, fluorspar, etc.).
Leasable minerals are defined by the Mineral Leasing Act and are either solid or fluid leasable minerals. Solid leasable minerals include coal, oil shale, native asphalt, phosphate, sodium, potash, potassium, and sulfur. Fluid leasable minerals include oil, gas, coalbed natural gas, and geothermal resources. Exploration and production of these minerals on BLM lands may only occur on leases acquired by competitive leasing.
Salable minerals, also called mineral materials, include sand, gravel, dirt, and rock. The majority of the BLM's mineral material sites in Alaska are for sand and gravel. The primary users are the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (for highways and airports) and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System). BLM sells mineral materials to the public at fair market value, but gives them free to states, counties, or other government entities for public projects.
Q. What is a metaliferous mineral?
A. Metaliferous minerals are minerals that contain or would yield through standard processes metals or alloys. Examples of metaliferous minerals include gold, silver, copper, tin, and zinc. Examples of non-metaliferous minerals include fluorspar, mica, certain limestones, and gypsum, phosphates and gemstones.
Q. Why does the planning area boundary include non-BLM lands?
A. Unlike other federal lands, such as a national wildlife refuge or national park, the BLM's land base consists of multiple parcels of various sizes. BLM-managed public lands may range from a 20-acre federal mining claim surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of state land to parcels of a million contiguous acres. To ensure all BLM lands are addressed by land use plans, the BLM established planning area boundaries for the entire state. RMPs address only the BLM-managed lands within each planning area. However, the BLM considers existing plans and policies of adjacent landowners during land use planning.
Q. What is an ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawal?
A. This refers to Section 17(d)(1) in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. ANCSA authorized the Secretary of Interior to withdraw and reserve public lands for study and classification. This was done through a series of Public Land Orders (PLOs) issued between 1972 and 1975. The PLOs generally closed the lands to mining and mineral leasing. In the Central Yukon Planning Area, however, two of the PLOs left the lands open to metaliferous mineral location.
The BLM reviews land withdrawals during land use planning to determine if the purpose for the withdrawal still exists, or whether the lands could be made available for use under public land laws. Revoking withdrawals reserved under ANCSA could make unencumbered lands (lands not selected by the State or Native corporations) available for mining and mineral leasing, subject to regulations and permit conditions for resource protection.
Q. Have withdrawn lands in Alaska been opened in the past?
A. Yes. Some of the 17(d)(1) withdrawals were modified in the early 1980s, opening about 10 million acres to mineral leasing and the general mining laws. No further openings have been done since that time. For example, PLO 6477 issued in 1983 modified withdrawals on the Seward Peninsula and in northwestern Alaska.
Q. Who can modify or revoke a 17(d)(1) withdrawal?
A. The Secretary of the Interior can modify or revoke these withdrawals. The Central Yukon RMP will make recommendations to the Secretary for withdrawal modification or revocation. The withdrawals will not be changed unless the Secretary takes action on the BLM's recommendation.
Q. Are there 17(d)(1) withdrawals in the Central Yukon Planning Area?
A. Yes. Parts of seven 17(d)(1) withdrawals cover lands in the Central Yukon Planning Area. These PLOs close parts of the planning area to mineral entry and location under the 1872 mining law, and to mineral leasing under the mineral leasing laws. PLOs 5180 and 5186 cover about 60 percent of the BLM lands in the planning area. These PLOs allow for metaliferous mineral location, meaning that mining claims may be staked for metaliferous minerals such as silver, gold, copper, and zinc on about 60% of the planning area.
Q. Can the State of Alaska select and receive title to lands in the Utility Corridor?
A. Only if Public Land Order 5150 is modified to allow for state selection. In 1958, the Alaska Statehood Act allowed the State of Alaska to select approximately 103 million acres of Federal lands for transfer to State ownership. Federal lands that were already reserved for a specific purpose were not available for the selection. The statehood act gave the State 25 years (until 1983) to complete its selections.
In 1971, Public Land Order 5150 (a.k.a. PLO 5150) established a utility and transportation corridor along the general route of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and made the lands in that corridor unavailable for selection by the State of Alaska. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) granted the State an additional 10 years (until 1993) to complete its land selections. It also gave the State the right to file "future selection applications" on lands that were not available for selection at that time in case they became available in the future. These future selection applications are called "top filings."
The State of Alaska has top-filed a large portion of the lands in the utility corridor that was reserved by PLO 5150. It is possible that PLO 5150 will be modified through the Central Yukon Resource Management Plan. If PLO 5150 is modified or eliminated, then the top-filed lands would become valid State selections, and eventually become State-owned lands.