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.
• Bills introduced to stop federal management of greater sage grouse
• WOTUS under review
• Congressional Review Act
The one legal entity that can change the game and provide a path and template to protect landowners and public land users across the United States is the miner.
• Settlement hearings
• Fighting back
In May, 2016, the Andersons received a letter from Steve Niemela at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting access to their property to conduct surveys for “foothill yellow-legged frogs and other amphibians.”
The Bawl Mill • Legislative and Regulatory Update • Ask The Experts - Are there different “ferro” products processed out of the ore? • Ask The Experts - How hot does a furnace need to be to get rid of sulphides? • Ask The Experts - Will this paystreak be downriver off the trailing edge of bedrock? • Putting Together A Small Free Gold Mill—Part II • Chasing Float Gold—The Starry Night Wash • 2018 National Mining Hall of Fame Inductees • A Test Grid Dredged for Gold Values • Michigan House Votes to Give Mining Operations More Flexibility • Mineral Exploration On The Rise • 18 Acquitted in Massive Brussels Diamond Heist • Captain Obvious Strikes Again • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices