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Legislative and Regulatory Update - July 2006 (Vol. 75, No. 11)
Legislative and Regulatory Update
by Scott Harn
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• Miners win latest round
Miners have won the latest round in the Karuk Tribe’s attempt to force gold dredgers out of the water.

As we reported in our June issue, and numerous previous issues, the Karuk Tribe of Northern California and the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) had been attempting to close several rivers in Northern California to dredgers, and place severe restrictions on several others.

The Tribe sued DFG, claiming gold dredgers were causing harm to coho salmon, among other claims. DFG and the Tribe had reached a settlement without public involvement and the agreement was about to be signed when Public Lands for the People and the New 49’ers prospecting club intervened.

Just prior to press time we were notified by Public Lands for the People (PLP) president Jerry Hobbs that Alameda County Judge Bonnie Sabraw agreed with the miners. Judge Sabraw found that DFG did not follow proper procedures to promulgate regulations. The miners will be making a motion for summary judgement. (Summary judgement is a decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law.)

If the judge declines to grant summary judgement, then the case will be scheduled for trial.

The attorneys representing the miners are David Young and James Buchal.

We’ll keep you posted on this one.


• New push to close off lands in New Mexico
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has petitioned the Bush administration to close 1.6 million acres of national forest to mining and energy development.

The area was originally designated as “roadless” and placed off-limits by the Clinton-era Roadless Rule, which Clinton issued just before he left office. The Bush administration subsequently rescinded the rule.

Richardson also wants to close another 100,000 acres in the Valle Vidal area, which would create “another stumbling block” for oil and gas projects said Richardson.

El Paso Corp. has already asked the Forest Service to allow leases in just under 40 percent of the Valle Vidal area to extract coal bed methane.

Richardson was the energy secretary in the Clinton administration and is considering a run for president in the 2008 election.


• Close call in Peru
Alan Garcia was elected President of Peru over Ollanta Humala. Humala had pledged to increase taxes on foreign mining companies operating in Peru and is supported by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Chavez has been making waves in Venezuela, proposing that the government take control of foreign-owned mining projects that had not reached the production stage. With Chavez as an outspoken ally of Humala, many believed Humala would have taken steps to seize control of foreign-controlled mining projects in Peru had he been elected.

“In Latin America, there was no leader who was confronting Hugo Chavez,” Jorge del Castillo, secretary-general of Garcia’s Aprista Party, said. “Now there is one.”


• New underground safety requirements
President Bush signed a bill requiring underground mines to increase emergency oxygen supplies from one hour to two hours. Extra oxygen supplies must also be stored along escape routes.

Mine rescue teams will be required to be located within an hour of each mine, rather than two hours away.

Within three years, coal companies also have to put new communications and miner tracking systems in place.

Bush put in a plug for his nominee to head the agency in charge of mine safety, Richard Stickler. The former coal company executive and mine safety chief for the state of Pennsylvania has run into staunch Democratic opposition in the Senate.

“To implement this new legislation, we need effective and experienced leadership at the Mine Safety and Health Administration,” Bush said.

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