March 2017 by Scott HarnI spent the early part of February in Washington, DC, along with Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) national advisors Clark Pearson and Joe Martori.
The meeting circuit began bright and early on Monday morning after a twenty-minute cab ride over to the Longworth Building from our hotel. We had appointments scheduled nearly every hour in the Longworth, Rayburn and Cannon buildings, where the offices are located for members of the House.
We brought along our first piece of legislation—an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NADA), which will fix the access problems many miners and public land users currently face.
During a previous visit in March 2016, members of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Armed Services Committee expressed deep concern over the lack of access to critical and strategic minerals and metals. We are 100% dependent on other countries for rare earth minerals after the Molycorp mine—the only major US producer—closed over a year ago. This is why we wrote this first bill as an amendment to the NADA.
When enacted, our amendment will turn responsibility of whether or not to open a closed road or route to MMAC-assisted Mining Districts.
MMAC also has a main bill totaling twenty pages that will address many of the other issues we currently face, and you can read it on the MMAC website at www.mmacusa.org. You’ll find a link at the bottom of the page.
There were varying degrees of education provided depending upon the congressmen and staff we met. Some were familiar with Mining Districts and their legal authority from previous visits, while others were brand new to one of the above mentioned committees. All members received a copy of the NDAA amendment and our supporting documentation, including the legal authorities and background information put together by Clark. All those who were visited previously were amenable to our amendment, while the new members needed some additional time to read through the supporting documentation.
This was a new experience for me. I visited the Capitol as a tourist some twenty years ago, but I never had the opportunity to speak with House members and their staffs. It was a bit chaotic because some members were just finishing up moving to a new office, had recently filled a vacant staff position or two, or had just been assigned to one of the committees as a new member. There were votes occurring on the House floor during this time and various hearings throughout the week.
I participated in over twenty meetings during the time I was there and attended a hearing titled, “Making EPA Great Again” that was chaired by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
At the hearing it was immediately obvious there had been a changing of the guard and Smith did not hold back any punches.
“Unfortunately, over the last eight years the EPA has pursued a political agenda, not a scientific one,” said Rep. Smith in his opening remarks.
Rush Holt, PhD, took the brunt of criticism from Smith and others during the hearing. Holt oversees the Science family of journals. In that role, he decides what gets published and what gets rejected when it comes to scientific papers and studies, and he also decides if a retraction is warranted. He was on the hot seat for the better part of an hour regarding a recent claim from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that there was no pause in global warming. As reported in the United Kingdom Mail on Sunday on February 5, fellow scientist Dr. John Bates questioned the veracity of the data used by NOAA.
Dr. Bates was a top NOAA scientist with a 40-year career in climate science and meteorology who retired soon after this incident.
According to the Mail on Sunday article, Dr. Bates said the “key error was an upwards ‘adjustment’ of readings from fixed and floating buoys to bring them into line with readings from a much more doubtful source—water taken in by ships.”
Dr Bates said, “They had good data from buoys. And they threw it out and ‘corrected’ it by using the bad data from ships. You never change good data to agree with bad, but that’s what they did—so as to make it look as if the sea was warmer.”
Bates objected to the publication of the paper to his NOAA superiors and called it a “blatant attempt to intensify the impact” of what became known as the Pausebuster paper. He also stated there was a rush to publish it to coincide with the United Nations climate conference in Paris in 2015. At the conference, former President Obama agreed to further emissions cuts though it’s widely expected that President Trump will sign an Executive Order to rescind that agreement.
The NOAA also claimed the computer they had been using “failed” so the data was lost, the study could not be replicated, and the data was not properly archived.
The disorganization in DC was evident when one of our scheduled meetings with a staffer for the House Committee on Natural Resources let us know he had moved over to the BLM. We rescheduled the meeting for later in the week, but before that date arrived he had been moved again, this time to Fish & Wildlife.
I had to head home on Thursday afternoon, but Clark and Joe continued on with additional meetings on Thursday and Friday. Those additional meetings included influential staff members at BLM and Fish & Wildlife who offered their support, including support for expanding the Memorandum of Understanding we already have in place between BLM and the Rand Mining District in southern California to other MMAC-assisted Mining Districts. The MOU reopened closed routes and roads and removed the overlying land designations within the Rand Mining District.
We would have liked to make our case directly to President Trump, but as you can imagine he was quite busy.
I guess the biggest news is that we have been invited back in early March to take part in the Republican Leadership Conference. This will provide the opportunity to meet with many of the members of Congress in a more informal setting at several meetings, luncheons and dinners. And we have been given the opportunity to meet with President Trump’s staff to discuss how MMAC-assisted Mining Districts and our proposed legislation can produce high-paying jobs, reopen closed public lands, and provide for America’s need for critical and strategic minerals and metals.
The day after I returned, I headed off to the GPAA gold prospecting show in Pleasanton, California and had the opportunity to talk with quite a few readers who wanted to know how the trip to DC went.
Within a week I was on the road again to the Washington Prospectors Mining Association gold show in Monroe, Washington. Members of the Blewett Mining District met during the show and they elected a new board, and I was able to “change hats” and answer many of their questions about MMAC-assisted Mining Districts.
It’s been a very busy month, but also a very rewarding one as we make progress toward getting miners back to work through MMAC-assisted Mining Districts. I’m looking forward to the return trip in early March and I’ll provide you with a full update in our April 2017 issue.
_______________Editor's Note: We are due to return Washington, DC, on March 7-12, for many more meetings, including members of President Trump's team and Bob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. I have been able to fund my own way for these trips, though other team members cannot afford to do so. Please consider supporting our efforts by joining MMAC.
You can officially join MMAC as a silver member ($30); gold member ($110); or just make a one-time contribution online at mmacusa.org.
We all know that it was never Congress’ intent to regulate gold panners and other individual mine operators through MSHA. In fact, I believe the concept of owner-operated mines with no employees was so strange a concept to the lawmakers that they never even thought there would be a need for such an exemption.
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- Lands bill signed by President Trump
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• Tennessee permits for gold prospecting
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SB 765...would tax suction gold dredgers by charging a $50 annual fee for in-state dredgers and a whopping $2,500 fee for out-of-state dredgers for each county where the miner intends to dredge.
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