August 2017 by Scott Harn
The Minerals and Mining Advisory Council had a busy month, assisting miners in getting their Mining Districts organized in multiple states and making another trip to Washington, DC, to garner support for their bills and amendments.
In late June, I headed off to Wyoming following an invitation from the Wyoming Prospectors Association (WPA) to their annual gathering outside of Riverton. The group has been financially supporting MMAC, but Randy Hutchison, former WPA president, requested an in-person presentation if possible to help build some momentum toward organizing/modernizing their Mining Districts.
WPA members are dealing with the same issues as many other miners—excessive regulations, approval delays for Notices and Plans of Operation, excessive bonding requirements, conflicting land designations, sage grouse habitat, and the list goes on.
Wyoming has an extensive mining history and Mining Districts were established across the state wherever a valuable metal or mineral deposit was found. But like many other mineral-rich locations, the miners allowed their Mining Districts to fall into disarray.
In a little less than an hour, I explained the power of Mining Districts to a group of around eighty miners and the presentation went very well, with some quality follow-up questions asked by those present. I also provided an update on MMAC’s efforts in Washington, DC, and the progress made toward passing MMAC’s legislation to reestablish mining as a priority for public lands.
Some of the original Mining District bylaws for districts in the area had already been located. The members seem to clearly understand how Mining Districts work and the steps they need to follow to modernize their districts. We expect many of these districts will be modernized with the assistance of MMAC in the immediate future.
The group had previously offered to reimburse much of my expenses for this trip. I politely declined and the group voted to make a sizeable donation to MMAC instead.
My daughter and I spent several days with WPA members, doing a little prospecting, visiting mining sites in the area, and gathering information for an article on a small operation running nearby. (You'll see the article elsewhere in this issue.)
While I was in Wyoming, MMAC National Advisors Clark Pearson and Joe Martori were in Washington, DC, which was MMAC’s third trip to Congress this year. The main focus this time was to garner support from the Senate side of Congress for MMAC’s proposed bills and amendments.
MMAC met with dozens of Senators and squeezed in a few additional meetings with House members and the US Geological Survey.
Pearson called the trip, “The most productive so far. We are courting over a dozen potential sponsors now. We had some members call us back for additional meetings and several of these lasted over an hour.
“Trying to get a bill through Congress takes time and persistence, and MMAC is committed to getting it done.”
Following the trip to DC, Joe Martori is scheduled to travel to New Mexico and Arizona to assist other Mining Districts.
Dozens of Mining Districts have already joined MMAC. Many of the overlying land designations and other restrictions have been lifted, and many roads and trails were reopened within these MMAC-assisted districts. Once the first bill passes, traditional, organized Mining Districts will be given additional responsibilities and be allowed greater control over public lands within their districts.
If you are a claimholder, it is highly likely your mining claim is within a traditional Mining District. If your Mining District is in disarray, you need to get that district modernized so you are not left behind.
You are certainly welcome to modernize your Mining District on your own, but those who join MMAC will receive assistance to help them get federally recognized, and federal recognition is the key component.
Details for organizing/modernizing your Mining District were published in the “MMAC Update” article in our April 2017 issue beginning on page 21.
During discussions with other property rights advocates and members of the current administration, Karen Budd-Falen’s name was mentioned many times as a possible director for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
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.
Mining Districts are the private regulatory authority granted by Congress recognized to regulate the mineral lands held by the United States and for the disposal to citizens of the United States, by means of development and potentially perfected by patent.
Within these districts, some of the roads and trails have been reopened for access, critical habitat designations have been scaled back, and a few Mining Districts were completely removed from proposed withdrawals.
There are some miners who are under the impression that an organized Mining District will immediately get the regulatory agencies off their backs so they can start digging or dredging again.
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.
You have made your presence known with the BLM or Forest Service, placed Mining District signs along the entrance points to your district, and found support with other local miners. But how do you gain popular support?
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