July 2020 by Scott Harn
States continue to block miners from mining their federal mining claims across the West by requiring a Section 402 Clean Water Act permit. The Clean Water Act clearly states the “addition” of a pollutant is the trigger, but these states continue to ignore the law and they’ve been backed by liberal courts like the Oregon Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
We were looking forward to the US Supreme Court finally weighing in on this Section 402 permit issue in Eastern Oregon Mining Association v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality after the miners appealed a decision from the Oregon Supreme Court. But the US Supreme Court accepts less than 3% of the cases it receives for review and, unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them. So now what? Where do we go from here?
We here at the Mining Journal, along with Public Lands for the People, have been working with a few folks in Washington, DC, on this issue for the past year. Last year, Donald Smith, a miner in Idaho, was dealing with the same permit issue, and we gave him a hand with writing a petition for rulemaking addressed to the EPA. (Section 402 permitting is handled by many of the Western States under a memorandum of understanding with each state.)
We’ve built up some contacts in DC during our trips there over the past four years, and we believe we finally have the correct contacts who can get this petition reviewed by the proper people. We’ve been in touch with them over the past two weeks and we were hoping to have further news to report on this process, but we didn’t get any confirmation by press time. We are asking for the EPA to provide clarification to federal and state agencies that a Section 402 permit is not required for suction gold dredging because there is no addition of a pollutant. We will certainly keep your posted.
On another note, we are also talking with Trump administration officials about providing relief in many other areas, and what is the best and quickest route to provide that relief.
As all of you know, the House is currently controlled by Democrats while Republicans control the Senate. Many members of Congress are too busy fighting with each other and worrying about re-election to get anything significant accomplished so we are in active discussions about a more efficient alternative with some of our DC contacts.
I can’t give any specific details on this effort at this time, but will certainly let our readers know when that opportunity arises.
Those miners present immediately recognized the benefits of becoming members of MMAC and joined up on the spot. I spent some time answering a few questions, and then the miners took over.
While progress with Congress has been slow, the Trump administration has taken the lead to start making needed changes at the Department of Interior and US Department of Agriculture to support miners…
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.
…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.
PLP cannot understate the importance of this legal decision in our present battles with the political powers of the California swamp.
The process of updating the Rand Mining District is underway and you’ll see a Public Notice in this issue requesting interested parties to submit an application to serve on the board.
The Bawl Mill • Ask The Experts - Can GPR be used for lode prospecting? • Ask The Experts - How do I extract gold from pyrite? • Ask The Experts - Should I dig faint sounds with no indicator bars while detecting? • Ask The Experts - Should the detector sound on iron and nickel in a gold area? • Hard Rock 101: Micro Blasting • Sluicing and Detecting Downstream • Tips and Tricks • Gold Prospecting for Better or Worse: Does Caliche Grow? • 10 Keys to Prospecting Like A Pro • Polymetallic Skarn Deposits • Practical Advice for Milling Hard Rock Ores • Speed Prospecting for Hard Rock Gold • Forrest Fenn Treasure Chest Finally Found? • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices