• Oregon passes SB 838
The Oregon legislature has passed Senate Bill 838, an anti-mining bill pushed by Senators Alan Bates (D-Medford) and Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), with the support of extreme environmental groups. At press time, the bill was awaiting the signature of Oregon Governor Kitzhaber and he is expected to sign it.
A last-minute compromise of sorts was brokered by Alan Olsen (R-Canby), which tempered the bill somewhat and replaced a full moratorium on placer mining with cumbersome restrictions.
SB 838 places limitations on suction gold dredging for several years, including limiting the number of permits issued to 850. Section 5 of the bill reads as follows:
(1) On and after January 1, 2014, and before January 2, 2016, mining that uses any form of motorized equipment for the purpose of extracting gold, silver or any other precious metal from placer deposits of the beds or banks of the waters of this state, as defined in ORS 196.800, or from other placer deposits, that results in the removal or disturbance of streamside vegetation in a manner that may impact water quality, is subject to the following:
(a) The motorized dredge equipment must be operated at least 500 feet from other motorized dredge equipment, unless the Department of Environmental Quality determines that another distance is appropriate to protect water quality.
(b) The motorized equipment may not be left unattended within the wetted perimeter of any waters of this state.
(c) The motorized equipment may be operated only between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.
(2) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section apply to mining that occurs up to the line of ordinary high water, as defined in ORS 274.005, and 100 yards upland perpendicular to the line of ordinary high water of the full length of any river and tributary thereof in this state, of which any portion contains essential indigenous anadromous salmonid habitat, as defined in ORS 196.810, or naturally reproducing populations of bull trout.
(3) The provisions of subsection (1) of this section do not apply to any mining for which the State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries issues an operating permit under ORS 517.702 to 517.989.
(4) During the period described in this section, the Department of State Lands shall limit the individual permits issued under ORS 196.810 and the general authorizations issued under ORS 196.850 to not more than 850 permits and authorizations for mining described in this section at any time during the period described in this section. The Department of State Lands shall give priority, to the greatest extent practicable, to persons who held permits or authorizations for the longest period of time before January 1, 2014.
SB 838 instructs the Governor’s office to prepare a report with the assistance of federal and state agencies and other “affected stakeholders” addressing regulations, permits, monitoring, fees, enforcement, riparian habitat protection, social considerations and management zones. The Governor’s report and recommendations are to be submitted to the legislature by November 1, 2014.
The bill establishes a one-time application fee of $300 for a suction gold dredging permit and an annual renewal fee of $25. An additional fee of $150 is required for suction dredgers from October 1, 2013, to December 31, 2015, to fund the “Suction Dredge Study Fund.”
The bill also states that the new regulations will continue from January 2, 2016, to January 2, 2021, subject to any changes or recommendations from the Governor’s report.
There are some obvious conflicts between this bill and federal law, and it is now ripe for a court challenge.
• Meanwhile, in California...
A California court said a recent emergency rule published by California Department of Fish and Wildlife was unjustified. Siskiyou County Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon granted a temporary restraining order on behalf of miners, preventing Fish and Wildlife from enforcing the rule. (For the complete story, see “Court Says Emergency Rule in California Unjustified” on page 52.)
A request by miners for a preliminary injunction to lift the current suction gold dredging moratorium has been pushed back by about one month to August 27, 2013, at Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court in San Bernardino County, California. The case was delayed a bit so the judge can incorporate the Siskiyou County case with ongoing litigation involving the current suction dredging moratorium.