Court of Appeals Deals Blow to California Suction Dredge Ban
by Pacific Legal Foundation

The California Court of Appeal has issued a decision that seriously undermines California’s ban on suction dredge mining. Adopting the argument of our amicus brief, the Court held that a state ban forbidding all commercially beneficial use of a federal mining claim is preempted by federal mining law.

Brandon Rinehart has a federal mining claim in a streambed in the Plumas National Forest. He claims that the only way he can work this claim is by using suction dredge mining equipment. However, California has banned the use of such equipment, citing environmental concerns. When Rinehart worked his claim anyway, he was criminally prosecuted.

As the Court recognized, this is a serious problem. Federal law expressly encourages individuals to find valuable resources on federal land and mine them. As the Supreme Court has explained, Congress’ intent is “to reward and encourage the discovery of minerals that are valuable in an economic sense.” States may not frustrate Congress’ purposes by prohibiting this activity on federal land.

Read more on the Pacific Legal Blog.

Note: It is important to get the Rinehart case published to enable the mining community to cite this case in future cases. Please refer to the following page and send in your letters requesting that the opinion is published.