PLP Update & Legislative and Regulatory Update
April 2022 by Scott Harn
I’m combining these columns this month because there is an overlapping issue I wanted to address.
ICMJ and Public Lands for the People (PLP) have both received calls and emails of concern regarding the Department of Interior forming a “working group” to address possible mining law reform. Following is my response:
The “working group” will make recommendations, but they can’t change the 1872 Mining Law without Congress. The group can, however, initiate some changes through rulemaking that could make mining more difficult, like more reporting requirements and increasing bond amounts.
Mining reform has been tried many times before, going back more than 15 years. Former Congressman Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia who was defeated in 2014, and current Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-New Mexico) pushed for it back in 2007 and passed a mining law reform bill in the House, but it couldn’t pass the Senate. The bill would have required a lease system for gold mining claims and other metals, along with royalties.
Various versions have been pushed nearly every year since then, but none have made it through. Grijalva and former US Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) introduced another one in 2019. Grijalva has pushed for it nearly every year of his twenty years in the House of Representatives.
These proposals have never made it through both chambers of Congress, but it’s a bit more concerning at the moment because of the makeup of the Senate. Grijalva is the chair of the House Resources Committee and it can pass the House with Democrats in control.
The US Senate is the roadblock. Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) was opposed to some of the provisions, and there may be another Democrat or two opposed in the Senate—likely from Nevada and Arizona—but it would only take the support of a couple of Republican Senators to get it through.
Hopefully nothing will be accomplished by the group before the end of the year. I anticipate the Senate will be in Republican control following the November elections based on current polling, and Republicans might take back the House as well.
I wrote a review of the mining law reform bill back in 2009 when Rahall tried to pass mining law reform the second or third time, and it appeared in our March 2009 issue. It’s titled, “Rahall Proposes Bill to End All Mining in the U.S.” and you can still read it (for free) online on our website.
PLP continues to promote their legal method of dredging (reclamation dredging) to their members in California. So far, there are several dozen dredgers back in the water in California, cleaning the environment while retaining the gold they recover on their mining claims as a byproduct of that effort. None of the dredgers have been cited.
Check out their website at www.publiclandsforthepeople.org if you’d like more information.
• EPA rule blocked
• EPA investigated for environmental ties
• Hundreds of miners show up to rally at Oregon State Capitol
• DOI nominee would be bad for miners
Mr. Hughes was obviously shaken by our interaction and we are quite confident he assumed we were all missing teeth, long-haired, uneducated, backwoods miners who would immediately become submissive. That didn’t happen...
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.
• California dredging update
• Study: Sage grouse does not need protection
• Tennessee enacts harsh new gold prospecting regulations
In May 2017, the district participated in a meeting with representatives from several state and federal agencies where they educated agency officials about the authority of Mining Districts, Mining Law and miner’s rights.
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