Legislative and Regulatory Update
October 2007 by Scott
• AB 1032 on Governor’s desk
The California bill to prohibit suction dredge gold mining was amended several times in the Senate, and then referred back to the Assembly. The Assembly concurred with the amendments and passed the bill on September 12, 2007.
The bill moved to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk. He can sign it, veto it, or let it sit on his desk for thirty days. After thirty days it becomes law—if he hasn’t already signed it by the time you receive this issue.
We do not know what the odds are on this bill becoming law. We do know that Public Lands for the People (PLP) will file a lawsuit against the State if the bill is enacted. We here at the Journal will be sending additional funds to PLP if the bill is signed to help them get the lawsuit process started in a timely manner.
“Thank you” to all who have sent in letters to Governor Schwarzenegger to encourage him to veto the bill.
Updates on AB 1032 are available under the Pending Rules and Regulations section of our website, and we will continue to update our readers in this column.
• Shasta Miners take on DFG
In March 2006, three members of the Shasta Miners and Prospectors Association in California were issued citations by the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG).
According to Diana Clayton, treasurer and spokeswoman for the Shasta Miners, several members had arrived at a local stream for a family outing, equipped with gold pans and a sluice box. After about thirty minutes of scooping possible gold-bearing gravels out of existing holes, and processing the materials with the gold pans and sluice box, the group was approached by Fish & Game officer Dewayne Little.
Little pointed to many pre-existing holes where gravels had been removed and told the miners they were in violation of section 1602 of the Fish & Game Code for substantially altering a streambed. He left them with a verbal warning. He returned after a few minutes and stated that he spoke with a member of the Bureau of Land Management who told him to issue citations in lieu of a verbal warning.
Clayton said the miners, encouraged after several conversations with Jerry Hobbs of Public Lands for the People, decided to fight the charges.
The miners refused to pay the fine. They asked for and received assistance from the Public Defender’s Office.
“The Public Defenders were not up to speed with mining laws, so we decided as a group to hire another attorney to do research and assist them,” said Clayton.
The group retained attorney Ken Armstrong. He provided the Public Defenders with related case histories and pertinent mining laws.
The miners refused offers of a plea agreement and the case went to trial by jury.
Dave McCracken of the New 49er’s prospecting club testified on behalf of the defendants. Officer Little and a biologist testified for the prosecution.
Little claimed, among other things, that the defendants had moved large quantities of gravels with simple hand tools, one of which was a toy plastic shovel.
Two defendants were acquitted, and the third resulted in a hung jury with six jurists favoring acquittal and six favoring a guilty verdict. The judge later dismissed the charges against the third defendant.
Clayton stated they were able to speak with some of the jury members following the conclusion of the trial. They learned that jurors were not very impressed by the presentations on either side. Most importantly, many jury members felt that Officer Little was not credible.
Three additional members of the Shasta Miners Association are scheduled to appear in court in late September after receiving similar citations in 2007. The group expects the charges may be dropped following the recent acquittals and dismissed charges in the previous case, but they are preparing for another jury trial if needed.
Clayton stressed, “We agreed, as a group, to continue to fight their attempts to intimidate us.”
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.