Transaction Costs and the Value of Mining Claims

David Gerard


This paper examines the relationship between transaction costs and the value of full title to mining claims staked under the 1872 Mining Law. Miners can either acquire full title to their claims (known as a mineral patent) or mine unpatented claims. The costs of enforcing claim rights is lower when the claimant holds full title, but the patenting process is costly. The decline in claim disputes after the turn of the century reduced the value of full title, and the demand for patents decreased. An analysis of data from 12 western states for the period 1882–1932 is consistent with this argument. (JEL Q31)

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