September 2020 by Scott Harn
We have put several documents in the hands of the correct people in Washington, DC, and are now just waiting to schedule conference calls or online meetings to address several issues, such as federal preemption, dredge permitting, access, and more.
In the meantime, I want to highlight some recent court cases won with the assistance of Public Lands for the People (PLP) taken from the PLP newsletter.
Recapping our recent win:
PLP Member Wins “No Addition” Argument in CA State Court
For the very first time in CA State court, a small miner has won the “no addition” argument—this time against the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. Gold miner Michael Osterbrink, along with PLP’s expert testimony delivered by PLP’s legal researcher Clark Pearson, fought back a charge by the Sierra County District Attorney Mr. Osterbrink’s mining “had polluted state waters with materials that are deleterious to fish in violation of section 5650 of the CA Fish & Game code.”
Mr. Osterbrink was found not guilty of violating section 5650 of the CA Fish & Game code, which prohibits pollution of state waters with materials that are deleterious to fish and wildlife (count 2). PLP cannot understate the importance of this legal decision in our present battles with the political powers of the regulatory swamp. This is a really big deal!
So-called environmentalists in CA believe that miners are polluters—not true! There are no foreign substances added, a fact PLP has been touting for many years, and the court agreed. The court stated, “…I really think 5650, the intent of the legislature there is to deal with situations where a defendant has deposited something new, a foreign substance. Here, there doesn’t seem to be any dispute that this defendant did not add anything new. So I am going to find Mr. Osterbrink not guilty on count 2.”
You may recall back in 2015, PLP member John Godfrey also won the “no addition” argument in count 5 against the Forest Service. (See: www.publiclandsforthepeople.org/accomplishments/)
In the Godfrey case, the Forest Service even had a so-called expert lead engineer from the CA Water Board testify that what Godfrey had done amounted to pollution to no avail to the government. Godfrey won in federal court and now Osterbrink has won in CA state court. PLP had confidence that it was a solid argument that could be won, even in a California state court.
Osterbrink’s decision will go a long way in helping get suction dredging to legally return to California and other states. PLP once again successfully stood by its arguments that are successful when applied properly, even when others have waivered and compromised.
We have an opportunity to make significant and substantial changes to provide relief for small miners with the Trump Administration and the current makeup of Congress. We realize the time to act is now, but we need your help.
A two-pronged approach is necessary to restore suction dredging; federal preemption needs to be established as addressed above via petition; and clarification from the EPA is needed to establish that no Section 402 permit is necessary when there is no “addition” of a pollutant.
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.
Each separate Mining District is a federally recognized entity. There are huge advantages—picture yourself going to an oversight meeting where 2, 3, 4, or even more Mining District representatives have obtained voting positions on the board.
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.)
Q: The nearest access to the claim is a half mile walk, which is tough for a lode claim.
Public Lands for the People is working on a Miner's Bill of Rights with the support of several members of Congress.
The Bawl Mill • Ask The Experts - What is the difference between heavy and light rare earth elements? • Ask The Experts - What are the tax implications for partners on a claim? • Ask The Experts - What should my plan be for testing quartz for gold in North Carolina? • Ask The Experts - Did gold deposits come from space or were they created underground? • Ask The Experts - Is a shaker table going to work on my flour material? • Subtle and Not So Subtle Dangers of Hard Rock Mining • How Should I Work This Prospect? • Tips and Tricks: Preparing Your Dredge Engine for Storage • Fluorescent Mineral Prospecting • More Tips on How to Find Gold with A Detector • What Do You Need For A Successful Micro-Scale Mine? • Using Favorable Rock Types to Find More Gold • Gold Prospecting for Better or Worse: Of Mice and Men • Discovering New Territory • Melman on Gold & Silver • Mining Stock Quotes and Mineral & Metal Prices