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Freeman v. United States Department of Interior

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20091
Nos. No. 15-5140, (D.C. Cir., 04/29/2016)

The D.C. Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, upheld an Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) decision invalidating an individual's mining claims on federal land in Oregon. DOI made those determinations so that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which was considering takings claims by the individual, could decide whether he had any compensable property rights in those mining claims. The court rejected the individual's claim that DOI's Office of Hearing Appeals lacked authority to determine the validity of mining claims under the General Mining Law of 1872 as of past—rather than present—dates. The applicable regulation plainly imposes no time restriction—past or present. Indeed, DOI has long considered the validity of mining claims as of past dates in a variety of contexts. The individual also took issue with IBLA’s determination that his claims were not valuable as of 1994 and 2000, the dates of the alleged takings. He argued that IBLA erred in pricing nickel at approximately $3.00 per pound as of those dates and instead should have considered the 2007 spike in nickel prices to $21.00 per pound. But the argument fails. There is no persuasive evidence that a person of ordinary prudence could have predicted the later, temporary spike in nickel prices as of the valuation dates, nor any identified basis upon which the Department should have concluded that his claims could have been profitably developed.