On July 4, we are reminded of the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made to establish this great country of ours, and in that spirit, the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) has created a draft Declaration of Miners. Please take a moment to review it. MMAC administrators will be asked to be signatories to the Declaration of Miners to show one, unified voice.
MMAC’s goal is to provide assistance to traditional mining districts so miners can return to mining under reasonable regulations.
In addition, MMAC has been hard at work writing a bill, with the unwavering support of several members of Congress, to reaffirm the rights of miners operating in traditional mining districts. The bill has been thoroughly researched and is now in the hands of competent mining attorneys for their review, and we are happy to publish the draft of the Mineral Regulatory Reform Act in its entirety. Please click on the image to read the draft bill in .pdf format.
And remember to visit mmacusa.org mmacusa.org if you need assistance with assistance organizing your mining district or to stay abreast of the latest developments.
Public Lands for the People (PLP) has been instrumental in helping miners maintain access to public lands for decades and have taken a lead role in fighting overzealous regulations. The recent case of People v. Godfrey is one such case.
John Godfrey is a small-scale gold miner in Northern California. He had a small settling pond and carried gravels over to a sluice box after cleaning out bedrock cracks of possible gold-bearing material.
In August 2014, John was issued a citation by the US Forest Service that listed five separate violations. These included:
Count One: Unauthorized cutting and damaging of any timber, tree and forest product. Violation of 36 C.F.R 261.6 (a)
Count Two: Causing timber, trees, slash, brush and grass to burn without a permit. Violation of 36 C.F.R 261.5 (c)
Count Three: Damaging any natural feature or property of the United States. Violation of 36 C.F.R. 261.9 (a)
Count Four: Unauthorized trail and significant surface disturbance on Forest Service managed lands. Violation of 36 C.F.R. 261.10 (a)
Count Five: Placing in or near a creek any substance which may pollute. Violation of 36 C.F.R 261.11 (c)
The New 49’ers legal defense fund and PLP helped defend John Godfrey and worked with the Public Defender. In September 2014, a judge found John “not guilty” on counts one and two, but ruled he was guilty of counts three through five.
Clark Pearson, northern director for PLP, contacted attorney James Buchal for assistance, and the New 49’ers and PLP provided further assistance to the Public Defender on the appeal. On June 2, 2015, the District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction on count five but affirmed counts three and four.
PLP and attorney Buchal believe this case is very winnable and must be appealed. A win on appeal would set a positive precedence that can be used to prevent further harassment of miners in similar circumstances. PLP voted unanimously to take up and fund the 9th Circuit appeal for John Godfrey to overturn counts three and four.
PLP would also like to thanks miners for their continued support. Tax-deductible donations are always welcome and can be made to specifically fund this case at:
Public Lands for the People
20209 Ventura Blvd, Ste 47-466
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
We also want to mention that Judge Gilbert Ochoa was scheduled to meet with attorneys and plaintiffs in the ongoing suction gold dredging litigation on June 23. Unfortunately this was after our press deadline, so you will find an update on this meeting on our website at www.icmj.com
The main focus of the meeting was to provide some relief for miners. Judge Ochoa had already ruled that state law cannot preempt federal law, but suction dredgers were still being told by the Department of Fish and Game that dredging remained illegal without a permit and no permits were being issued.
Our bonus offer to support PLP is still available! Get a one-year subscription or add a year to your current subscription and you can get a discounted PLP membership. (We will contribute $10 toward the cost of your PLP membership.) Just give us a call to take advantage of the offer.
Here are the latest subscribers who took advantage of this offer:
Donald Patty—Barstow, CA
Wesley Buist—Veyo, UT
Tony Nicholas—Kittitas, WA
The People v. Rinehart case is still ongoing. This case also addressed federal preemption of state law—the state cannot prohibit suction gold dredging, which they have done by requiring a permit but refusing to issue one.
Rinehart appealed his conviction for dredging without a permit and attorney James Buchal argued that he should have been allowed to present evidence related to federal preemption. The Court of Appeals agreed, remanded the case back to the lower court, and published the decision so it could be used in other cases. The State of California appealed the Appellate Court decision to the California Supreme Court and briefs have been filed. It should be noted that Pacific Legal Foundation joined the fight, supporting Rinehart’s assertion that federal law preempts state law. We don’t have a firm date for a decision, but we’ll certainly keep you posted.
December 2010 On Tuesday morning, August 26, 2010, my clients Michael and Linda Backlund were forced to plead guilty to a charge of violating 36 CFR §261.10(b), which criminalizes maintaining a residence on Forest Service land without authorization “when such authorization is required.” This is a new regulation pursuant to which virtually anything, even a tent, is an unlawful “residence” unless authorized in advance.
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.