June 2019 by Scott Harn
Clark Pearson (Public Lands for the People) and I completed our fifth trip in 2019 to Washington, DC in early May. Over several days, we provided copies of our educational/legislative packet to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and House members who are part of the Western Caucus.
Prior to this trip we had learned that the official at the Environmental Protection Agency we had been working with was not the correct person to get the job done. The goal is to get EPA clarification for the terms “incidental fallback” and “addition of a pollutant” under the Clean Water Act. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed these terms to be liberally interpreted by agencies and environmental groups to stop suction dredge mining and related activities, and they have been applied far beyond the original intent.
We received assistance from a friend in DC and he put us in touch with the right person at EPA. Unfortunately there were scheduling conflicts, but we were able to pass along the information and supporting documentation for her to work on this request.
Remember that the title of our proposed legislation has the words “Critical” and “China” in the title, but it’s written to assist all miners, large and small. And speaking of China, they announced they will be placing tariffs of 25% beginning June 1 on critical minerals and rare earths America needs for everything from electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels, to computers, cell phones, battery-powered tools, radar guidance equipment, missile systems and many related defense applications.
A bill was reintroduced by Rep. Amodei to help reduce the time frame for mine permitting to 30 months after a Plan is submitted, but it lacks the “teeth” needed to make it enforceable. We had proposed that a failure to make that deadline should allow the operator to commence under operation of law, but without that caveat the miner will be forced to go to court to compel the agency to act. Australia, with stringent environmental standards like we have here in the US, can review permits in two to three years; there’s absolutely no reason America cannot do the same.
Senator Murkowski’s bill seeks to start a comprehensive survey, inventory and reporting process for critical minerals by the US Geological Survey. It’s a good start, but the results won’t be seen until several years down the road, and this bill fails to provide access to all the areas that are blocked off due to mineral withdrawals and Forest Service Travel Management Plans.
Meanwhile, Rep. Grijalva (D-Arizona) assumed chairmanship of the House Natural Resources Committee after Democrats took control of the House. He introduced Mining Law Reform legislation that would set us back decades by automatically cancelling mining claims after 20 years, imposing heavy royalties and adding new regulatory burdens, further discouraging American investment in any form of mining. As long as Republicans retain control of the Senate, there is little chance of Grijalva’s legislation becoming law.
It just might take a full embargo on critical minerals by China before members of Congress take meaningful action on mining legislation to create regulatory certainty.
PLP’s online petition to show support for our proposed legislation is now available on their website at www.publiclandsforthepeople.org. Just click on the “Take Action” banner to read the legislation and endorsement letters we’ve received so far and to sign the petition. Keep in mind that you will receive a confirmation email after signing the petition. You’ll need to respond to that email in order to be included. We want to take a very large packet with the names and hometowns of Americans who support this legislation and provide it to influential members of Congress to show them they have the support of their constituents.
After President Trump signed several executive orders to reduce regulations and to declare critical minerals are a national security issue, the best path to get our legislation through Congress seems to be via the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The yearly NDAA is up for review right now—that is why we started our trips to DC early and often this year. While there is no assurance our proposed legislation will be included, a Chief of Staff for one of the Republican House members contacted me by phone after our return to assure me they will do their best to get at least a few provisions from our proposal through by any means possible.
I want to take a moment to call out the efforts of two members of Congress. Though I don’t live in either Arizona or Utah, my wife and I support Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) with a monthly contribution. I’ve met and talked with both of them on several occasions. They are part of select few who understand the myriad of problems miners face in America. Don’t take my word for it; visit their websites and sign up for their newsletters to see what they are doing on your behalf. If you decide to contribute to the election of anyone in Congress, please follow up with an email expressing your support for “Critical Minerals: National Security Amendments to the NDAA” by Public Lands for the People.
The current administration is receptive; we believe the time is ripe to push for a return to reasonable regulations and to restore mining to a priority for public lands as long as some new crisis doesn’t take precedent.
... officials with BLM have been impressed by MMAC’s professional approach and consistency.
At the state level, there’s a possibility that California Governor Newsom could be removed and replaced during his upcoming recall election, which will be held in September.
Public Lands for the People has agreed to support the US Supreme Court appeal with financial assistance and with the filing of an amicus brief. (We here at the Mining Journal have also agreed to participate in the amicus brief.)
Now they have come up with a second guide (to be released on May 1) that they believe will allow dredgers in California to resume working.
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.
PLP has developed a plan to get dredgers back in the water by embracing the fact that suction gold dredgers can provide a valuable service by reclaiming waterways.
The Bawl Mill • Legislative and Regulatory Update • Ask The Experts - Can you provide information on gold in Ghana? • Ask The Experts - Geophysics and gold deposits • Ask The Experts - Do these items qualify as mechanized equipment? • Ask The Experts - EPA Method 6020 testing • Ask The Experts - New detector or stick with the old? • The Value of Old Patches • A 'Rare' Opportunity for America • Tips for Cleaning Gold Nuggets • How Long Does It Take to Find and Recover An Ounce of Gold? • Gold Prospecting for Better or Worse: In A Tight Spot • Detecting Wet Ground Yields More Fun Than Gold • Over The Divide: Jim Straight, 1930-2019 • Beach Mining for Placer Gold • Reno's 1872 Time Capsule Includes Gold Rush Lore • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices