It seems that miners across the US are finally getting the message that having an organized Mining District gives you a huge advantage. As a federally recognized entity, you have the power to require coordination from federal agencies. You can read more about that power in “Proof Mining Districts Work!” in our July issue.
I’ve been fielding quite a few calls from miners who have tracked down the original bylaws for their traditional Mining District and they are taking the steps necessary to get organized. It’s never too late to take back control. You’ll see a Public Notice in this issue for some Mining Districts in New Mexico. If you have mining claims, it’s time for you to take control or quit whining.
To give you another example of the power of Mining Districts, take a look at the recent progress made in the Rand Mining District in southern California
As we reported previously, the Rand Mining District was in disarray and got organized again with the assistance of the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) and Public Lands for the People (PLP). A member of the Rand Mining District board obtained a voting position on the Desert Advisory Council, an unelected board that sets many of the rules and regulations for millions of acres of desert lands in southern California.
Joe Martori of MMAC, Clark Pearson of PLP, and I made presentations to the Desert Advisory Council to bring them up to speed on mining law. Some of the big obstacles were areas designated as ACECs (Areas of Critical Environmental Concern). The rights of miners were being trampled upon and the Desert Advisory Council was unaware they were overstepping their authority within the Rand Mining District.
Many miners have failed to exercise their rights by using the power of their Mining District and laws that are already on the books, such as 43 CFR 9712.1, which states,
“...any use of the surface of any such mining claim by the United States, its permittees or licensees, shall be such as not to endanger or materially interfere with prospecting, mining or processing operations or uses reasonably incident thereto...”
Restrictions placed on lands designated as ACECs “materially interfered” with mining and the Desert Advisory Council failed to coordinate with the Rand Mining District.
A Memorandum of Understanding was written up between the Bureau of Land Management and the Rand Mining District to clarify the situation (currently in its final edit) and the result will be that ACECs will not apply within the Rand Mining District.
Public Lands for the People has also been busy, and one of their latest cases involves suction dredge miner Ron Miller in Idaho, which we reported on last issue.
The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) served Ron with papers informing him of their intent to sue him for supposedly violating the Clean Water Act by operating his suction dredge without obtaining a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
PLP and the Rocky Mountain Mining Rights Association assisted Ron, and the ICL was served with a Direct and Constructive Notice that advised them they would be sued individually and personally if they violate his rights. (See MMAC & PLP Update in our July 2016 issue.)
Since that time, Ron received a letter from the Idaho Department of Water Resources on behalf of the EPA which threatened charges and fines for failing to obtain an NPDES permit and he had an appeal denied by the US Forest Service.
PLP and the Rocky Mountain Mining Rights Association aided Ron in making a request for an administrative hearing and his Notice of Appeal.
Ron’s three-page response and request for the hearing is too long to include here in its entirety. We are including the first page, and you can read the entire letter in the online version of this article via the link below.
There are certain steps Ron must follow before he can pursue civil claims against public officials for, among other things, failing to coordinate with the Mining District and materially interfering with his operation. Those avenues need to be exhausted and he is committed to following through to a lawsuit if necessary.
In May 2017, the district participated in a meeting with representatives from several state and federal agencies where they educated agency officials about the authority of Mining Districts, Mining Law and miner’s rights.
April 2011 This ruling comes at an opportune time, just as suction dredge miners are dealing with new proposed regulations in several western states. Be sure to cite this case when you provide comments on the regulations!