PLP and MMAC Update
May 2018 by Scott Harn
I haven’t received any updates from the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council since the last issue, so I’m going to focus on PLP in this column.
Last month I wrote a detailed article about my latest trip to Washington, DC, with Clark Pearson of Public Lands for the People (PLP). It was my third trip to DC in the past year.
The article summarized our meeting with the EPA regarding the need for clarification for suction gold dredge permitting, our meetings with members of the House and Senate about our proposed amendments to provide regulatory relief for small-scale miners, and meetings with various appointees at the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior.
As a direct result of that trip, Clark and I have had additional conversations with appointees at the Department of Interior, the EPA and the Department of Agriculture about regulatory issues and what can be done to provide immediate relief for small-scale miners. Some promising items have been discussed at length.
One of our primary objectives was to educate members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the House Committee on Natural Resources about issues facing small miners and to present our proposed amendments written by Clark and titled “Small Miner Amendments to S 145.”
Senate Bill 145 is the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act” introduced by Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada). While the bill provides some relief for large-scale miners, it falls woefully short in supporting small-scale miners. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both Republicans from Idaho.
A companion bill, HR 520, was introduced in the House.
Our proposed amendments would provide regulatory relief regarding access to mining claims, timely review of plans and notices, MSHA exemptions for small miners, re-opening closed or designated lands, and much more. (If you haven’t yet read the “Small Miner Amendments to S 145,” you can easily find more information by searching for it on our website at www.icmj.com or at www.publiclandsforthepeople.org.)
On our previous trip to DC in March, we briefed the staffs of Heller, Risch and Crapo (and many others). Don Smith, a fellow miner from Idaho, followed up with Senator Risch’s office. Senator Risch liked our proposed amendments and took the initiative to send them to legislative council, which is the first step in getting them approved for consideration by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
In early June 2018, Clark and I will be returning to DC for six days of meetings with members of the appropriate Senate and House committees to garner additional sponsors and move the proposed amendments along in this process.
In addition, we have tentative meetings scheduled with appointees at the US Forest Service and MSHA to address many of the problems faced by small miners when dealing with these agencies.
We have an opportunity to make significant and substantial changes to provide relief for small miners with the Trump Administration and the current makeup of Congress. We realize the time to act is now, but we need your help.
Our goal is to walk into each meeting with a stack of letters from small miners to document the abuses perpetrated by federal agencies and suggest corrections. Appointees in the current administration are willing to assist us, but they want to know what is happening out in the field.
First, if you have been blocked from access to your mining claims by the US Forest Service, we need a short summary from you of how this occurred. Less than one page will do to describe the situation. Was it the result of a Travel Management Plan? Was it an arbitrary decision of a forest supervisor? As a claim holder, were you contacted prior to this action? Did the Forest Service require a Notice or Plan from you to retain or restore access?
Second, the same is true for MSHA—if you have been shut down, subjected to citations or threats of citations for your small-scale operation, we need a summary of what happened. Again, please try to keep it down to a single page. Just report the factual information and please be polite—we won’t include letters laced with profanity! Were you given the opportunity to correct the situation? Do you have specific suggestions that would improve the process?
MSHA is soliciting comments on their regulations to comply with President Trump’s Executive Order 13777 titled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” issued February 24, 2017, which directs each agency to review existing regulations to assess compliance costs and reduce regulatory burden. MSHA stated the agency “seeks stakeholders’ assistance in identifying those regulations that could be repealed, replaced, or modified without reducing miners’ safety or health.”
Other federal agencies will likely be soliciting comments soon.
And third, we need letters of support for the “Small Miner Amendments to S 145.” Again, it only needs to be a few paragraphs.
We are asking for separate letters for each of these issues so we can get the maximum impact when we meet with a particular agency, Senate or House member, and we plan to present these letters to them on your behalf when we return to Washington, DC, June 4-9.
Letters to the US Forest Service can be addressed as follows:
USDA Forest Service
Sidney R. Yates Federal Bldg
201 14th St, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Letters to MSHA can be addressed as follows:
Mine Safety & Health Admin.
201 12th Street South, Ste 401
Arlington, VA 22202
Regarding letters of support for the “Small Miner Amendments to S 145,” please address them to your member of the US Senate or US House of Representatives.
Completed letters can be sent to me by email to email@example.com; by fax at (831) 479-4385; or by mail to:
Attn: Scott Harn
PO Box 2260
Aptos, CA 95001
Many of you are aware that we have been engaged in litigation with anti-mining activists that have been attacking us through the Karuk Tribe of California since 2003. It all started with their lawsuit against the US Forest Service (USFS), challenging that District Rangers do not have the authority to allow small-scale mining activities under a Notice of Intent (NOI) when the Ranger concludes that the mining activity is not likely to create a substantial surface disturbance.
Besides the EPA issue, our major priority is to work on the proposed amendment to the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (S 145), a bill proposed in the Senate by US Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada).
PLF scores another win for property rights
For now, MSHA is just collecting information. However, the information it collects will shape what comes next.
I’ve received quite a few inquiries from miners who are beginning to realize that traditional Mining Districts are powerful entities and they are looking to get their district organized if it’s in disarray.
- Welcome changes in Washington, DC
- Giving power back to the people
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