March 2020 by Scott Harn
Momentum continues to build on our proposals to provide regulatory relief for miners. We are encouraged by the recently proposed changes to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, which include some of the recommendations Clark Pearson (Public Lands for the People) and I presented to the Trump administration and members of Congress during our many visits to DC in 2019 and in prior years.
We’ve continued to network with other like-minded groups, including the California Logging Association. Additionally, OurEnergyPolicy—a Washington, DC-based, non-partisan organization that facilitates dialogue on energy policy issues—featured our critical minerals report in their March 3 weekly newletter. They also added it to the OurEnergyLibrary, a resource library with policy-relevant reports from across the sector for energy professionals.
I’m scheduled for my next trip to DC from March 30-April 4 with Clark Pearson, where we will be focusing on several important issues to provide immediate relief for miners.
Getting Suction Dredge Miners Back to Work
First and foremost, we’ll be meeting with administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek clarification on the Clean Water Act. We are asking the agency to clarify that the CWA does not apply to suction gold dredging because there is no addition of a pollutant, which is the requirement to trigger the need for a Section 402 EPA permit. This issue has been corrupted by previous 9th Circuit Court rulings and needs immediate clarification so suction dredge miners in Western states can get back to work. (This should also help miners avoid the current push in Washington State to curtail suction dredge mining, which we discuss in our Legislative and Regulatory Update column.)
When we meet with the EPA, we’ll be bringing along endorsements from many organizations, businesses and independent miners, which we’ve collected over the past several months.
Maintaining Access to Mining Claims
While both the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service have thrown a few roadblocks up to prevent miners from accessing their claims, the Forest Service is the source of most of these complaints because of their use of Travel Management Plans that disregard the rights of miners. We will be meeting with two advisors to the Trump administration—one who handles BLM issues and the other USFS issues—to discuss how agency directives can be utilized to resolve these problems.
Road Closures in Arizona
We’ve heard from miners in Arizona about federal agencies closing off historic roads that provide access for miners, and we need your input. While groups like the American Mining Rights Association are attempting to deal with these issues at the state level (thank you, AMRA), we would like to take the case directly to someone at the federal level who can help resolve these issues in a more timely manner. In addition to our scheduled meetings with BLM and the Forest Service, we will be meeting with Congressman Paul Gosar.
Congressman Gosar has met with us personally several times over the past four years. He’s on the House Natural Resources Committee and is the chairman of the Western Caucus, which is comprised of 74 members of the House who are committed to western values. He’s been a huge supporter of miners and mining-related issues.
What We Need From Miners in Arizona
If you are an Arizona miner who is having difficulty accessing your mining claim due to closures or ridiculous requirements imposed by the BLM or Forest Service, please send us a short (one page or less) cover letter to describe the problem, and a map, if possible. We will present these issues to President Trump’s appointees at BLM and/or the Forest Service, where appropriate, and to Congressman Gosar to enlist assistance from him and the Western Caucus.
You can email this information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Put “Arizona access issue” in the subject field.) Or you can send them to me via mail to:
ICMJ—Arizona access issue
Attn: Scott Harn, Editor
PO Box 2260
Aptos, CA 95001
Keep in mind that I must receive this information by March 25, 2020, in order to compile the letters and complete a report for members of the Trump administration and Congressman Gosar before I head out to DC.
We—and Public Lands for the People—thank you for your continued support.
The settlement did not grant an immediate approval for the project, but it did begin to clear the way for the company to apply for federal permits—a path the Obama administration previously had thwarted.
If you do not have the time to read the entire document, I would suggest starting with the Executive Summary that begins on page 80.
They cited concerns that the Trump administration would allow more logging, oil drilling, mining or development on some of the 46 million acres controlled by the federal government in California.
Q: The nearest access to the claim is a half mile walk, which is tough for a lode claim.
It was a milestone day in the battle to maintain the rights of miners to dredge on federal mining claims in California.
The verbage is SB 838 is vague and ambiguous to say the least. As a result, there is quite a bit of misinformation floating around the rumor mills.
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