The mandatory settlement hearings for the consolidated suction gold dredging court cases in California were continued until November 14 in San Bernardino County Superior Court.
While the involved parties are not allowed to discuss specifics, there was an outside development with extremely positive implications.
Brandon Rinehart, a miner who was cited in 2012 for suction dredging without a permit, won his appeal in the Third Court of Appeals. Rinehart was not allowed by a lower court to present evidence of federal preemption. The case was remanded back to the lower court for trial. Rinehart will now be allowed to present evidence that the current prohibition on suction dredge mining in California violates federal mining law.
The Third Court of Appeals also agreed to publish their opinion, which means the ruling can be used by miners in the mandatory settlement hearings.
For more on this issue, see “The Dredge Report” in this issue. And be sure to check our online Recent News section for the latest updates.
• Administration locks up another popular gold mining area
On October 10, with the stroke of a pen, President Obama placed another 346,117 acres off-limits in the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles by designating the area as a national monument.
National monuments are not open to new mining locations, but valid existing rights must be honored.
Gold mining in the San Gabriel Mountains began in the 1840s. The East Fork of the San Gabriel River has always been popular with weekend prospectors. Now, any type of motorized mining equipment outside of valid existing claims will be prohibited.
This is the thirteenth time President Obama has used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create or expand a national monument.
• BLM creates de facto wilderness without Congressional approval
The Bureau of Land Management denied a prospecting permit to Mesa Exploration Corp. for a proposed potash mine north of Wendover, Nevada, then denied a second proposal submitted by the company because a historic trail is located nearby.
Potash is primarily used in fertilizers to boost crop yields.
The historic trail, known as Hastings Cutoff, was used by settlers heading West in the 1840s, including some members of the Donner Party, but much of the trail has been obliterated by modern vehicles.
Drilling began on the property back in 1966, and Mesa acquired the project in early 2012.
In its rejection, BLM stated the agency was establishing a protected corridor and was not going to allow any development within 10 miles on either side of the trail, which would create a de facto wilderness of tens of thousands of acres without congressional approval.
“The restriction imposed on this large area by the BLM is unprecedented, unwarranted and, we believe, unlawful,” said Foster Wilson, CEO of Mesa Exploration.
The company has appealed the decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals.
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.
Casperson said he is not worried about businesses subverting the language in the bill because the DEQ would still have the authority to halt the new construction if it is deemed environmentally unsound.