February 2017 by Scott HarnThere is a lot to report.
Within hours of President Trump’s inauguration he signed an executive order to halt any pending regulations and delay for 60 days any that had already been published in the Federal Register but had not yet been implemented so he and his staff could review them.
During President Trump’s campaign he stated he intended to reduce the regulations on businesses of all types, including mining.
Bill Jensen, one of the national advisors for the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC), was in Washington, DC, during the week of the inauguration, meeting with members of the new administration and Congress to get the first MMAC bill on its way to becoming law. This first bill will federally recognize MMAC-approved Mining Districts and reopen many of the historic access routes and roads needed by miners and all outdoor user groups.
Many traditional Mining Districts have received assistance from MMAC and will soon be reaping the benefits. One such Mining District is the Koyukuk Mining District in Alaska. The Koyukuk Mining District is huge, encompassing millions of acres. MMAC provided assistance in getting the district organized/modernized and helped them obtain voting rights on the federal oversight board.
In early January MMAC held a conference call for traditional, organized Mining Districts and those wishing to get their districts modernized with MMAC assistance. Hundreds of miners participated in this conference call. One caller wondered why he should be required to join MMAC, asked why MMAC was not a non-profit, and compared it to some kind of extortion attempt. If he had questions like these, I assume there are others with similar questions and I will address them here.
First off, there is no requirement to join MMAC. Miners are welcome to try to obtain federal recognition on their own accord, but be forewarned that it is not an easy process. If it were easy, there would be no need for the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council or the services they are providing. MMAC administrators have walked many Mining Districts through the steps needed to become federally recognized and there are literally dozens more Mining Districts in the process right now. MMAC asks for $110 from those claimholders in MMAC-assisted Mining Districts to pay for materials, representation and on-going training. (If there is more than one person listed on the claim, only one needs to become a “gold” MMAC member; the others listed on the claim can join as “silver” members at $30 per year and still receive the benefits.)
The funds also go to pay for Geological Information System (GIS) mapping of Mining Districts, which Congress has requested we provide, bill writing and lobbying.
Some have asked why MMAC is not a non-profit organization. Current IRS regulations put a cap on funds spent for lobbying for non-profits. MMAC has already made significant progress in Washington, DC, and wants to continue lobbying to get several bills passed on behalf of all miners.
While MMAC is not a non-profit, there have been no profits generated to date. So far, all of the national advisors for MMAC and many of the administrators have sunk their own personal funds into this effort because we believe it is that important. (I’ve travelled as far as Montana to represent MMAC and assist Mining Districts on their path to federal recognition, all without reimbursement.)
Each of the national advisors (myself included) and current MMAC administrators believe we can and will be successful in our efforts to return to reasonable regulations, reopen closed areas and roads to valuable minerals and metals, and re-establish mining as a priority for public lands.
Another question I recently received was regarding small mining clubs; specifically, whether or not this effort would benefit them and should they join MMAC.
Members of small mining clubs will definitely reap some of the benefits of this effort. Whether or not you are a claimholder, when a Mining District obtains the authority to reopen closed roads and trails, successfully reopens a closed area or removes some of the previous restrictions placed on public lands, members of small mining clubs will also enjoy those benefits! These folks can join as “silver” members to help us get as many traditional Mining Districts recognized as possible and to help us get the legislation through Congress.
If you have already read the Legislative and Regulatory Update column, you know that legislators in Oregon and Washington are following the path of California, trying to decimate your mining rights. One of the key provisions in our proposed bill will remove authority from the states to regulate mining and return that authority to the Bureau of Land Management and MMAC-approved Mining Districts.
I would like to encourage everyone to visit mmacusa.org to see all that is being accomplished on your behalf. On the website you can view the latest revision of the main bill we have been asked by Congress to write to restore the rights of miners and Mining Districts, you can join MMAC as a silver or gold member, or you can just make a contribution to fund these efforts.
With the new administration and current makeup of Congress, we have historic opportunities that may not come again for decades. If you are a claimholder in a traditional Mining District, contact MMAC and get your district modernized so you are not left behind.
You’ll find Public Notices online for the Blewett Mining District in Washington State and the Mount Pisgah/Caribou Mountain Mining District in Idaho. If you are a claimholder in one of these districts, please read the Public Notice and consider attending the meeting. (Be sure to bring along your BLM claimholder records in order to participate in the vote.)
• California dredging update
• Favorable bills in Congress
Those miners present immediately recognized the benefits of becoming members of MMAC and joined up on the spot. I spent some time answering a few questions, and then the miners took over.
They cited concerns that the Trump administration would allow more logging, oil drilling, mining or development on some of the 46 million acres controlled by the federal government in California.
Like all federal judges, he swore an oath to perform his duties “impartially… under the Constitution and laws of the U.S.” Nothing in those documents gives Judge Morris authority to order the BLM to work with non-government organizations (the same ones that filed the lawsuit in question) to alter America’s use of energy.
Tomten concedes the scenario of federal environmental agents swooping in on river dredges near historic mining towns like Idaho City, Rocky Bar or Placerville remains unlikely.
Rather than using the practice of government seizure of private property to promote economic development, the county is using it to preserve open space.
• EPA investigated for environmental ties
• Hundreds of miners show up to rally at Oregon State Capitol
• DOI nominee would be bad for miners
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