The historic Rand Mining District covers parts of Kern and San Bernardino counties in Southern California and it was first organized as a mining district in the late 1800s. Twenty-six miners signed the original document to create the Rand Mining District, and by 1900, more than $3 million in gold had been extracted.
Deposits of gold, silver and tungsten were mined over the years. Most large-scale mining petered out in the 1940s, but mining has continued sporadically to the present day.
The Minerals and Mining Advisory Council’s (MMAC) outline was recently followed to get the district organized after years of being in disarray. There are certain steps that must be followed in traditional mining districts so that the miner’s rights within the district are retained as originally intended, but there were a few twists and turns.
A commercial miner in the area, Joe Martori of Sleepy Bear Mining, searched online for the mining district’s history. He found plenty of information online but the original documents and bylaws could not be located.
Next, he went to the county recorder’s office where the mining district should have been recorded. Joe reported that everyone had just gotten out of college and did not even know how to spell “desert”—and none of them had heard of the Rand Mining District. Someone in the halls overheard Joe and waited until he came out of the office. He provided Joe with the name and phone number of an old timer who used to work in the recorder’s office.
Joe contacted the former employee and was told there was another warehouse with additional records. The other records were not all on microfiche and he would have to go through boxes to find what he needed. He warned Joe that people will say there is no such warehouse and provided him with the address. Joe ran out of time that day and went home.
A few weeks later Joe was working at the mine and stopped in town to visit the local museum. He had been there countless times and decided to stop in again because it was open during the week.
Joe told the curator what he was doing and he looked at Joe funny and pointed to the wall behind him. Hanging on the wall were copies of the original letters and filed documents for the Rand Mining District. Joe couldn’t believe it. He asked if he could make a donation in exchange for a copy. The curator offered to just give him one, but Joe gave the museum a $100 donation for it. He likely saved himself hundreds of hours of searching through boxes in a warehouse.
Joe learned that the Rand Mining District Historical Society also had the information.
After reading the original, Joe asked, “Why is this registered in San Bernardino County instead of Kern County?”
The curator explained that counties were not even officially recognized at that time, only mining districts, and the Rand Mining District overlaps the border of the two counties.
That night was the BLM Round Table meeting where Joe has a seat to represent the minerals and mining industry and the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC). It happened to be a night where the committee was to vote on keeping or getting rid of positions on the committee.
Joe asked to add a voting position for a representative of the Rand Mining District since it was in the process of being updated. The new position was approved unanimously on June 25, 2015, by a group that included environmentalists and recreationalists.
The process of updating the Rand Mining District is underway and you’ll see a Public Notice (Click Here) requesting interested parties to submit an application to serve on the board. The original bylaws have to be followed until they can be updated by a new board, which makes for some interesting challenges. One of those quirks involves voting. You’ll see in the Public Notice that miners with claims in the Rand Mining District will be allowed to vote on a single day—Tuesday, August 25. (Voting will be done via email, so stop by your local library on that date if you don’t have access to a computer.) Again, these quirks can be overcome with some adjustments to the bylaws after a new board is in place.
Joe stated he already received some unexpected feedback from miners and members of the general public who were unsure if they wanted to be a part of the district. Joe said that once he explained how a mining district can put an end to many of the unreasonable regulations, restore rights of access even in currently closed areas and bring in high-paying jobs, everyone was enthusiastically behind the effort.
We’ve published several articles in our April and June issues explaining the power of mining districts, and reported in our July issue on a new bill that is in the works to restore the rights of miners. If you haven’t yet done so, please take the time to read those articles. There are numerous members of Congress already behind this effort, and the time is right politically to get a bill passed.
There is power in numbers. Tens of thousands of miners are weak as individuals but could rival some of the strongest organizations in the country in terms of power if organized. That’s why Clark Pearson of Public Lands for the People and Joe Martori teamed up to start MMAC. It’s a group created by miners, for miners, to help guide them through the process of reestablishing control over mining regulations and regain access to valuable deposits. We have granted rights afforded to traditional mining districts that have lain dormant for years, but they provide the best avenue to return to reasonable regulations.
Joe cautions that there are specific steps that must be taken and rules that must be followed to properly update a traditional mining district. Traditional mining districts are recognized by Congress and have granted rights not available to newly established mining districts. If you wish to update your traditional mining district, please feel free to contact MMAC via email at email@example.com
If you would like more information on MMAC, visit them online at: www.mmacusa.org
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.
Face-to-face meetings in Washington, DC, with Trump administration officials and members of Congress are still on hold due to the coronavirus, but Public Lands for the People is continuing to work on mining-related issues via phone and email.
A two-pronged approach is necessary to restore suction dredging; federal preemption needs to be established as addressed above via petition; and clarification from the EPA is needed to establish that no Section 402 permit is necessary when there is no “addition” of a pollutant.
The group spent three days helping miners with access issues, teaching them how to politely and respectfully educate federal regulators and law enforcement officers, and how to win these issues in court if necessary.