A mining claim can be the first step to ownership
Quote from the BLM site:
How does the BLM select land that might be offered for sale?
Through our land-use planning process, BLM identifies parcels in one of the following categories:
scattered and isolated tracts that are difficult or uneconomical for BLM to manage;
;tracts acquired by BLM for a specific purpose that are no longer needed for that purpose
land where disposal will serve important public objectives, such as community expansion and economic development.
Not to mention the construction of roads, plumbing, electrical access, etc required to mine a parcel will permanently alter the land, even if no mining actually is done.
A key change in current (or historical) policy in the Pombo provision is the abillity to buy a mining claim without proving that minerals to mine even exist on the land in question. This can be a loophole for developers to stake a bogus claim, permanently alter the land with roads, etc, then buy the right to develop real estate on the land from the BLM as it not would now likely qualify as "land where disposal will serve important public objectives, such as community expansion and economic development.."
--a very underhanded an cynical way to exploit the public's land, but nontheless a great oppurtunity for corporations to further prosper.