June 2018 by Scott Harn
You may notice the title of this column has changed from “PLP and MMAC Update.” This is because I haven’t received any updates from the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) for nearly three months. By contrast, I get updates from the board of Public Lands for the People (PLP) several times every week. PLP is actively involved with many different issues related to public lands and is actively pursuing regulatory relief for small-scale miners. In fact, I’ll be heading back to Washington, DC, on June 4 with Clark Pearson of PLP for nearly a week of meetings with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, US Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous members of Congress in both the House and Senate.
I spent much time and money as an advisor to MMAC at their request because I believed—and I continue to believe—an organized Mining District is a valuable commodity. MMAC founder Joe Martori was enthusiastic and had some great ideas. I encouraged him to bring the group under the umbrella of PLP, but he decided to keep it separate. The organization was turned over to Bill Jensen and he is now the president.
Utilizing a Mining District to negotiate with local, state and federal agencies is still a very good idea. Mining Districts were established long before many of the federal agencies were created and land designations were put in place. Their existence creates a jurisdictional issue that agencies cannot ignore, putting those who organized their districts in a better position. We will continue to offer discounted announcements in our Public Notice section at the end of the classifieds. (You’ll see a notice for the Coffee Creek Mining District posted this month.) If I receive some worthy news from MMAC, I’ll certainly report on it for our readers in a stand-alone column.
Last month I asked readers to send in letters of support for our upcoming meetings with the Forest Service regarding lack of access, with MSHA about relief for small operators, and with members of Congress to urge their support for the “Small Miner Amendments to S 145” written by Clark Pearson. Clark and I will be delivering these letters in face-to-face meetings shortly and we thank you for your support with these efforts.
As I mentioned in previous issues, Senate Bill 145 is titled the “National and Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act” and was introduced by Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada). The companion bill in the House is HR 520. While the bill would help large mining companies in a few areas, it is sorely lacking in providing relief for small miners and prospectors.
The “Small Miner Amendments to S 145” will provide relief in several key areas:
- The majority of complaints we receive here at the Mining Journal involve the Forest Service and relate to their denial of access, inconsistent and overzealous enforcement, and lengthy delays in approving Plans and Notices. The amendments will remove authority over mining from local, state and federal agencies at the miner’s discretion, consolidating regulatory authority with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) if the miner so chooses.
- Plans and Notices would be approved by operation of law if the agency fails to act within specified time frames.
- Previous thresholds for “casual use” would be reestablished.
- Suction gold dredging would be exempted from state regulation.
- Small operators would be exempted from MSHA.
- Minimum qualifications would be established for personnel reviewing Notices or Plans.
There’s plenty more in the amendments to provide relief for small miners and we are attacking these problems on several fronts. What I learned during my previous three trips to DC in the past 15 months is that persistence, patience and education are the keys. We’ve been educating current appointees, lawmakers and their staffs, and learning what it takes to get legislation passed in DC. And we’ve found there seems to be plenty of support with the current administration and makeup of Congress.
We are going to continue our efforts on behalf of small miners until we get some much needed regulatory relief.
Casperson said he is not worried about businesses subverting the language in the bill because the DEQ would still have the authority to halt the new construction if it is deemed environmentally unsound.
• Trump cabinet forming
• Last minute regulations
• California suction dredging
• Two million acres of proposed habitat
• Last chance for Nevada claim refunds
• California suction gold dredging update
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.
There are a few questions you will need to ask yourself before you apply for a suction dredge permit from the State Water Resources Control Board.
Gold and jade are actually only minor mineral resources for the Northwestern Alaska region as a whole. Modern prospecting has focused more on base metal than precious metal resources.
• State attorneys claim the Court of Appeals wrongly relied on South Dakota Mining Association v. Lawrence County regarding federal preemption...
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