• Hike in mining claim fees
On July 27, 2012, the Bureau of Land Management published regulatory changes in the Federal Register requiring additional fees for many mining claim holders.
As we reported back in April 2012, the Omnibus Spending Bill (HR 2055) was passed by Congress and subsequently signed by President Obama on December 23, 2011. We later learned that hidden within this bill, titled “House Report 112-331: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012,” was a change in mining claim fees from $140 per claim to $140 “for each 20 acres of the placer claim or portion thereof.”
The new fees for placer mining claims could not be enforced or required until the change was published in the Federal Register, which finally occurred on July 27, 2012.
Those who own ten or fewer mining claims are still eligible for the Small Miner’s Waiver for completing qualifying maintenance and submitting a Proof of Labor form. However, for a miner who holds in excess of ten mining claims, the fee for a 160-acre association claim jumps from $140 to $1,120! There is no change in fees for lode claims, mill sites or tunnel sites.
Complete information on fees and filing requirements is currently available online at www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/info/iac/miningfacts.html
• Hearing on suction gold dredging in California
Fifty-three miners packed the Superior Court in San Bernardino County on August 3 to show their support in the effort to repeal the illegal dredging ban in California.
Judge Alvarez heard from attorneys representing miners—James Buchal and David Young—along with attorneys representing California and the Karuk Tribe.
At issue before the court was whether multiple lawsuits should be consolidated and heard in San Bernardino County. The attorney representing the Karuk Tribe was the only one who argued in favor of moving the cases up to Alameda County. Judge Alvarez stated he would strive to issue a written decision within a few weeks and forward it to the Judicial Council who will make the final determination.
The mining attorneys “did a fine job arguing the case and seemed to overwhelm the Karuk attorney,” said Jerry Hobbs, president of Public Lands for the People. They made it clear that there were thousands of miners in San Bernardino County with an interest in the case as opposed to only a handful in the Alameda County area, said Hobbs.
“About all the Karuk attorney could do is whine that they could not afford the trip down [to San Bernardino] and would probably have to get another attorney to take her place,” said Hobbs. “At any rate, we are getting closer to trial.”
• Interior wants mining reform
On February 15, 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the House Committee on Natural Resources, “The Administration will submit a legislative proposal to provide a fair return to the taxpayer from hardrock production on Federal lands. The legislative proposal would institute a leasing program under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 for certain hardrock minerals including gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, uranium, and molybdenum, currently covered by the General Mining Law of 1872.”
The current administration could try to push through these changes attached to another bill, similar to what happened with the increase in mining claim fees noted above. It is imperative that we all contact our Representatives in Congress and tell them vote “no” on hardrock minerals leasing.