May 2017 by Scott Harn
The Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) has been continuing to assist traditional Mining Districts in getting organized and working towards getting our first bill through Congress.
Working with the Western Caucus, we’ve participated in several meetings and conference calls to finalize the wording during the past month. The bill is about ready to go through the markup process with the appropriate congressional committees.
This bill will put MMAC-approved Mining Districts back in control by allowing those districts to determine whether or not a road, route or trail on public lands within the district should be open regardless of Travel Management Plans or other restrictions put in place by federal agencies.
The bill also removes the Forest Service and many other agencies from the regulatory scheme, placing the burden back on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and instructs the BLM to coordinate with MMAC-approved Mining Districts through a Memorandum of Understanding.
Why Become a MMAC-Approved Mining District?
If you are a claimholder within a traditional Mining District, you’ll want to have your district modernized and running smoothly when the bill goes through. (Instructions for modernizing your Mining District were printed on page 21 in the April 2017 issue.) You are certainly welcome to try to do so without MMAC assistance, but officials with BLM have been impressed by MMAC’s professional approach and consistency. This was confirmed for us by several Department of Interior appointees we met with in Washington, DC, in mid-March. And no other group to date has been able to obtain an MOU with BLM to reopen closed routes and provide relief from excessive regulations and restrictions.
MMAC currently has an MOU in place between the Rand Mining District in southern California and BLM which has removed many of the land designations placed over the top of the district, reopened closed routes and lifted much of regulatory burden. This MOU is being tested by BLM and the Mining District, and is under consideration for possible nationwide use for other MMAC-approved Mining Districts.
How To Join MMAC
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.) Anyone who wishes to make a one-time contribution—even if they do not own a claim—to support MMAC’s efforts to provide relief to miners is certainly welcome to do so. All of these options are available by clicking on “Join MMAC” at mmacusa.org.
Claimholders are beginning to realize the benefits and are contacting MMAC in greater numbers. As a National Advisor for MMAC, I’ve received many requests to come out and assist Mining Districts. Unfortunately I do not have the time to attend to all of the requests, but I’ve been able to refer many claimholders to an advisor in the general area. I will be on the road again shortly, assisting several large groups of claimholders in Wyoming and Colorado through the process of modernizing their districts to obtain federal recognition. I’m also preparing a presentation for a MMAC-assisted Mining District in Washington State for an upcoming meeting with state and federal agencies.
While there are many districts in the initial stages of the process, the list of MMAC-assisted Mining Districts continues to grow. Following is a list of districts that have benefitted from MMAC assistance so far:
- Alaska Mining Districts: Fairbanks, Koyukuk
- Arizona Mining Districts: La Paz, Mineral Mountain
- California Mining Districts: Coolgardie, Damascus, Downieville, Eagle Mountain, Grass Valley, Greenhorn, Happy Camp, Holcomb Valley, Knownothing, Morrow, Ophir, Rand, Sierra County, Upper Yuba, Virginia Dale
- Colorado Mining Districts: Cripple Creek, Leadville
- Idaho Mining Districts: Elk City, Florence, Marshall Lake, Mt Pisgah, Summit, Tenmile, Warren, White Knob
- Montana Mining Districts: Baker/Confederate Gulch, Beaver Creek, Emigrant, Gould/Stemple, Heddleston, Jardine/Crevasse, Jefferson, Lincoln, Natural Bridge, Ophir, Radersburg, Red Lion, Rimini, Sheridan, Tidal Wave, Winston
- New Mexico Mining Districts: Caballo, Cerrillos, Goldsboro, Hillsboro, Las Animas, Pittsburg
- Oregon Mining Districts: Baker County, Blue Canyon, Bohemia, Galice, Greenback, North Santiam, Pine Creek, Pioneer, Pocohontas, Quartzville, Riddle, Sunstone, Waldo
- Washington Mining Districts: Blewett, Chewalah, Slate Creek, Sultan, Summit, Swauk
We are anticipating we will need to return to Washington, DC, at least two more times to finish off this first bill, then we will get back to work on our more comprehensive bill to return mining as a priority for public lands. We will continue to keep you posted on our progress in the Journal.
Toward the end of this summer, we expect another Federal Register notice will be published that deals with Forest Service mining regulations.
The legislators soon came to the realization that Mining Districts and our proposed bill can solve many of the problems they currently face in their home states.
Most of the mining opposition today is centered around the small-scale miner. These miners number in the thousands and come from every walk of life.
This is the third trip MMAC has made to DC this year, so some of the congressional staff members are gaining a better understanding of the current problems miners face and how MMAC-assisted Mining Districts can alleviate those problems.
I want to stress that this is just the first step to fixing many of the regulatory issues we identified in discussions with the current administration. There will be plenty more to come.
We are heading into 2019 with a cautiously optimistic view. We feel we are very close to obtaining regulatory relief for miners, and believe this NDAA cycle will prove fruitful.
We’ve heard from miners in Arizona about federal agencies closing off historic roads that provide access for miners, and we need your input.
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