Legislative and Regulatory Update
January 2012 by Scott Harn• IBLA rules against miner for “late” filing
In 2007, Congress made the September 1 maintenance fee requirement permanent for claimholders with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008. Most miners are unaware that language within that bill also changed the filing deadline ever so slightly. Failure to take notice of this change could cause you to lose your claims.
The language of the bill moved the deadline for filing to 12:01am on September 1, essentially requiring miners to get their paperwork in on August 31 in order to keep possession of a mining claim.
On August 17, 2011 the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) ruled against a miner after he appealed a case in which his paperwork was filed in person on September 1, yet his claims were voided because of this slight change to the filing deadline.
Many government websites still refer to the filing date as “on or before September 1,” but the IBLA ruled the miner is responsible for insuring he is up to date on the rules and regulations governing mining claims.
Make sure you get your paperwork filed by August 31 each year to avoid this problem!
The case number in this decision is IBLA 2011-171.
• Wyoming appeals roadless decision
The State of Wyoming has appealed the decision of a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the validity of the Clinton-era Roadless Rule. The appeal will be heard by the entire 10th Circuit Court, and could reach the Supreme Court if not reversed.
At issue is whether the federal government can circumvent Congress and create de-facto wilderness by designating 49 million acres of public lands as roadless.
Wyoming’s appeal stated, “The Roadless Rule was the product of a sham process calculated to create wilderness without Congress. The Panel decision allows the Forest Service to unlawfully circumvent Congress and thwart many of the laws designed to ensure the proper management and conservation of the National Forests. The full Court should correct this result.”
• Mercury reduction program slated for California
California’s State Water Resources Control Board is planning on introducing a plan “to reduce mercury in California’s waters” under the guise of a “Statewide Mercury Program.”
The agency announced it is planning to hold a series of public meetings in early 2012, and the plan will likely impact gold mining sites.
Visit www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/mercury/ and click on the “subscribe online” link in the middle of the page to receive the public meeting schedule and to be notified when public comments will be accepted.
• Oregon wilderness
Oregon’s Chetco River has been closed to the filing of new mining claims after the federal government ordered a five-year withdrawal for a wilderness study. The withdrawal does not affect valid, existing rights, though claimholders in the area although a validity examination may be required before any further mining activity is approved.
In addition, Representatives Schrader, Defazio, and Blumenauer, all Democrats from Oregon, introduced HR 3436 in the House, a bill that would expand the Rogue River wilderness area by over 58,000 acres and place many additional miles of the river and its tributaries off-limits to mining.
Please take a moment to contact your legislators to let them know your opinion on this bill.
• Oregon miner prevails in lawsuit against Forest Service and District Ranger
US District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that a Forest Service District Ranger violated the rights of an Oregon miner when she had law enforcement officers impound the structures on his mining claim and later ordered their destruction.
Jim Edgar had been battling with the Forest Service for years over what he felt was an unfair bond increase. District Ranger Deborah Schmidt informed Edgar she considered his property abandoned even though he held valid mining claims after he failed to pay the increased bond by the deadline she imposed.
Edgar was never issued a citation nor served with a court order, and he was never given an opportunity to contest Schmidt’s decision in court.
Edgar’s structures, which had been built pursuant to a Plan of Operation, were subsequently dismantled with a backhoe and burned by law enforcement in June 2009.
Edgar filed suit against the Forest Service and District Ranger Schmidt in November 2009.
On November 9, 2011, Judge Aiken ruled that Edgar had a “clearly established, protectable property interest in his mining structures (and) Schmidt and the Forest Service had no authority to impound and assert government ownership over plaintiff’s mining structures for the purpose of destroying them.”
During trial, Schmidt claimed she did not have any involvement with the actual demolition of the structures because that was handled by law enforcement, but the court was of a different opinion. Schmidt’s request for immunity was denied.
The case is James W. Edgar vs. United States and Deborah Schmidt, Case #6:09-cv-06376-AA.
• Canada pulls out of Kyoto Climate Treaty
Canada announced it will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Climate Treaty, becoming the first nation to do so.
Environment minister Peter Kent stated that Kyoto would cost every Canadian family $1,600 if the nation remained party to the agreement.
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the situation “regrettable,” which is rather ironic since they are considered the world’s largest polluter and they’ve avoided making any firm commitment to cut emissions.
There are currently three controlling agencies or entities over suction dredging in California—and you can make that four if the state legislature decides to further muddy the waters with additional legislation to block suction gold dredging in the state.
Besides the EPA issue, our major priority is to work on the proposed amendment to the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (S 145), a bill proposed in the Senate by US Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada).
We will be bringing the first of several bills that were requested by Congress during a previous MMAC trip and presenting maps depicting all the MMAC-assisted Mining Districts.
• Idaho challenges EPA regulations
• California suction gold dredging
The law is on our side, but we’ve seen some crazy rulings coming out of courtrooms lately. I believe Rinehart will win his case, but then we move on to the State Water Resources Control Board.
You have made your presence known with the BLM or Forest Service, placed Mining District signs along the entrance points to your district, and found support with other local miners. But how do you gain popular support?
• "Recreational" mining bills in Washington State
• Three more national monuments
The Bawl Mill • Southwest Alaska Gold Project Progresses • Good Assays and Bad • Where to Find Gold in Indiana—Part II • Who is a Qualified Person? • Time Well Spent • Reality of the Klondike • NWMA Show • River Dredging vs. Creek Dredging—Part II • Pot Hole Gold • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices