Administration limits mining on renewable energy sites

"By temporarily segregating lands covered by pending wind or solar right-of-way applications, or lands identified as potential renewable energy leasing areas, the BLM can help ensure that new resource conflicts will not arise with respect to mining claims," the agency said in a statement.

Mining groups oppose the regulation.

"With the agency’s identification of 22 million acres of public lands with solar potential and 20.6 million acres with wind potential… our concerns that this rule could significantly interfere with development of legitimate mining claims are well-founded," the National Mining Association commented in 2011.

"We are disappointed with the outcome of the rule and believe the comments that we submitted remain valid," said Luke Popovich, a spokesman with the mining association.

The BLM's consideration of a right-of-way claim can take over a year, according to the mining group.

The segregation of potential right-of-way lands would be effective for two years and could be extended once, if the BLM approves.

Since 2009, the agency says it has approved 31 solar and wind right-of-way applications. But before the 2011 temporary prohibition, new mining claims were located on two right-of-way areas before the BLM could complete its evaluation.

Critics of the Obama administration’s energy policy say officials are over-emphasizing renewable energy at the expense of oil and gas.

A March report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service showed that fossil fuel production has declined on federal lands, though it is up overall in the United States.