I’ve fielded a few questions following several articles we published last month on the creation of the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) and the return to traditional mining districts. Some of those questions have been very good and I’m going to answer them here for the benefit of all our readers.
First off, let me reiterate from last month that ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal does not have any stake in MMAC. My only role has been to review and suggest edits for the MMAC website. I’m not running for any position at MMAC and have no intention of doing so in the near future. I’ve only volunteered my time because I can see a huge benefit for both the small-scale and large-scale mining community if traditional mining districts are utilized as they were originally intended.
For those of you who missed last month’s issue, there’s no reason to fret—you can find “The Power of Mining Districts” by Clark Pearson available for free on our website under the “Recent News” section. It was posted on 03/12/2015. There is also plenty of information available at the MMAC website: www.mmacusa.org
Following are some of the most common questions I’ve received.
Q: It seems like this MMAC was sprung upon us. Why the hurry?
A: There have been almost weekly announcements by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management regarding land use plans, closures or endangered species. Our federal government is doing its best to prevent miners and other public land users from accessing our public lands. There has been talk of additional national monuments being established by President Obama via the Antiquities Act. Western states have been piling on unjustified regulations using faulty or nonexistent science in an attempt to block small-scale placer mining.
In California, for example, the environmental movement is pushing a bill that would hand over suction gold dredge permitting to the State Water Resources Control Board after a judge ruled that state law cannot preempt federal law. The Board has been attempting to shut down dredging for years using inaccurate and misleading data to justify their position.
State and federal agencies continue to post their proposed regulations and solicit comments, then ignore any comments that do not fit their ideology. It’s our best chance in decades to get positive legislation following the last election. Miners need to have a seat at the table, and they need it now.
Q: I’ve read HR 761. It seems to be geared toward large mining concerns. Are small miners being left out?
A: You are correct—HR 761 is geared toward large mining concerns. A separate bill is being written to address the concerns of small miners. We will certainly let you know when it’s ready and when to call your legislators to voice your support, and over sixty legislators have agreed to be co-sponsors.
Q: It looks like elections for MMAC positions are about to take place. This is way too early. The job descriptions are incomplete on the website and some of the other data is incomplete. Shouldn’t this be put off for awhile?
A: As mentioned previously, there is some urgency to stop the avalanche of new regulations from state and federal agencies. In addition, a legislator on the House Committee on Natural Resources is pushing for this to be completed as quickly as possible so a companion bill can be passed to give traditional mining districts the recognition they deserve.
The job descriptions and other pages on the website do need some work; however, there is a small, core group of people who have been trying to get this up and running as quickly as possible. I’ve reviewed some of the MMAC website content at their request and many of the changes I recommended have not been made yet. Be patient—they will be made as time permits.
In order to be compliant with the law, MMAC positions must be filled by elections rather than appointments.
Q: The organizational structure looks like it needs some work, and should we really be seeking federal agency status?
A: Yes, there is work to be done. Those who are elected to MMAC will finish the work that has been started and it will be an ongoing process.
No final decision has been made to seek federal agency status. The pros and cons will be weighed, discussed and voted on.
Q: What happens if positions go unfilled? And can I apply for an administrator position if I don’t yet have ten years mining experience?
A: There are nineteen states where traditional and historical mining districts are located. These include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
MMAC has received over 700 inquiries so far. California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and South Dakota have received the largest number of responses. The remaining states could use more applicants. MMAC has committed to getting those states with sufficient applicants up and running right away. Skepticism is expected—especially with independent miners—and some people may wish to wait to see some results before they get involved.
Q: When are these elections? And I don’t have Internet access, so how do I vote?
A: Voting is scheduled to begin May 1 and continue through May 31, 2015. You must be a registered claim holder to vote and larger mining concerns are limited to one vote per mining location. You will be allowed one vote in each mining district where you hold a valid, registered mining claim.
Voting will take place on the MMAC website at www.mmacusa.org and the site can be accessed at most public libraries if you do not have Internet access. Bring your claim information with you because you will be required to list it.
Q: On the MMAC website there is a list of partners that includes “Emerald Planet.” They do not look like an organization that’s friendly to mining.
A: I agree—it set off my alarms also. They worked cooperatively with a particular mining operation but by no means do they have a proven track record in my eyes. It may be that those we elect to MMAC choose to terminate this partnership.
Q: Where is the funding coming from to start this?
A: A few people are putting forth their own hard-earned money to get this running. There’s a donation link on the MMAC website that should be up and running by the time you receive this issue. These donations will go through Public Lands for the People, a registered 501(c)3 organization. In addition, several larger mining companies have expressed their support and have offered significant financial contributions.
Q: What can MMAC accomplish? And what will change from the status quo?
A: Currently miners deal with a myriad of state and federal agencies. Something allowable on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management may be forbidden by the Forest Service.
First, MMAC seeks to remove the Forest Service from minerals management and return this responsibility to BLM. Second, MMAC is seeking to write its own rules, regulations and bylaws relating to the extraction of minerals and metals with the assistance of small and large-scale miners. Third, MMAC is seeking the same status level as BLM in the Department of Interior. And finally, MMAC seeks to become an elected body of miners, for miners, in the traditional mining districts.
The goal is to return to “reasonable” regulations that foster and encourage resource development, and to give miners the ability to appeal unfavorable decisions directly to MMAC.
In the meantime, our fundraising drive for Public Lands for The People continues. For those of you unfamiliar with PLP, they have been at the forefront in fighting for the rights of miners, battling to restore the rights of suction gold dredgers and other miners through litigation when necessary.
How it works: A one-year PLP individual membership is normally $35. You can get a one-year subscription to our monthly publication for $27.95 and include $25 for a PLP membership and we’ll contribute the additional $10 for your one-year PLP membership. If you already have a subscription you can certainly choose to add another year to your subscription to take advantage of this offer.
Here are the subscribers who have recently taken advantage of this offer through April 13, 2015. Thank you for your support!
Gary Cooper—Visalia, CA
Johnny Cooper—Kannapolis, NC
John Ragone—Santa Clara, CA
Robert Ollerton—Patagonia, AZ
Will Scott—Salome, AZ
David King—Yuba City, CA
Albert Jacoboni—Chico, CA
Tom Foreman—Sonora, CA
Mike Ganse—Watsonville, CA
Paul Smith—Norman, OK
Edward Handy—Hayfork, CA
Russell Pearce—Florissant, MO
Steve Borri—Healdsburg, CA
Leroy Meek—Cedar City, UT
Dan Temko—Minden, NV
Tom Chambers—Hanford, CA
Harold Kaufman—Greensburg, PA
Donald Peterson—Auburn, WA
Alan Nomura—Seattle, WA
John Ratley—Salida, CA
Dean Childress—San Jose, CA
Philip Mullins—Lincoln, CA
Jerry Shodall—Redondo Beach, CA
Drew Van Hoven—Wellington, NV
Give us a call if you would like to add your name to this list!
July 2015 On July 4, we are reminded of the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made to establish this great country of ours, and in that spirit, the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council (MMAC) has created a draft Declaration of Miners.And MMAC has been hard at work writing a bill, with the unwavering support of several members of Congress, to reaffirm the rights of miners operating in traditional mining districts.
Priorities will include meeting with the EPA regarding suction gold dredging permitting and with the Forest Service regarding revisions to CFR 228A regulations related to mining and access on public lands.
The changes we are seeking will most definitely help prospectors, small operations and dredgers. If you haven’t yet read our proposals, you’ll find a link to it at the end of the online version of this article.
October 2015 How would you like it if you could make the actual rules and regulations governing your own business? A dream, right? Well, the existing Federal Mining Law gives a claimholder this ability in the context of organized Mining Districts.
February 2016 We are quite pleased to report there are some courageous miners who have taken the time to learn their rights and have gone back to dredging while knowing they could be unlawfully harassed at any time by law enforcement…