Galice Mining District
The New War on Independent Mining in Oregon - LC 2125

On December 5th, 2012 the Oregon Senate Interim Committee on Environment and Natural Resources announced the agenda of their upcoming Work Session slated for December 11th, 2012.

Included on the committee's agenda is Legislative Concept 2125. The document, which is the forerunner of a potential Senate Bill, would declare an emergency prohibition of "placer mining using ANY form of  motorized equipment or motorized dredge" in the State of Oregon and seeks to criminalize independent mining by imposing a "maximum of one year's imprisonment or $6250 in fines, or both". Despite masquerading as something aimed at only mining, the legislative concept also includes radical approaches to more firmly establish state control of water resources for not only livestock consumption, but also human use.

LC 2125 is strangely reminscent of Oregon SB 765 which was sponsored by State Senators Atkinson, Bates and Hass in 2011. State Senator Jason Atkinson publicly declared a war on miners, particularly members of the New 49ers, with whom he seemed to have a particular axe to grind.

Miners, particularly those in SW Oregon and Northern California, promptly spearheaded opposition to Atkinson's bill. The opposition was so great that Atkinson promptly surrendered and killed his own bill in committee. Atkinson reportedly confessed that "the bill is not worth dying on the sword over", while his Policy Advisor, Kyle Vinyard, told the Gold Prospectors Association of America, that “the mining community — especially the mining community in southern Oregon — was so opposed to it, that we just decided we would withdraw it and leave it be.” 

Galice Mining District Executive Officer, Kerby Jackson, who helped to spearhead the fight against SB 765 in Oregon at the time, says that Vinyard downplayed the role of miners from elsewhere. "This was one of those rare ocassions where miners everywhere stood together to fight a common enemy," Jackson recalled. "Even Canadian and Australian miners protested against what Atkinson was doing. Much credit is especially due to miners in California. Those guys knew what was at stake."

It is notable to mention that Vinyard also told GPAA that while SB 765 was dead, he also said that if Atkinson and other sponsors wished to revive the bill, they would wait until 2013 to do so.

Although a spokesperson for the Oregon Senate Interim Committee on Environment and Natural Resources could not be reached for comment to provide details on who the author of the Legislative Concept is, it seems likely that Vinyard was warning us about LC 2125.

If allowed to become a bill, Legislative Concept 2125 could have a destroying effect on independent mining in Oregon, particularly upon the Rogue River, as well as upon the use of water in the State of Oregon. In addition to attempting to criminalize mining and to bully Mineral Estate Grantees into purchasing permits that they do not necessarily need under the 1872 Mining Act, the language of the draft indicates that the State of Oregon intends to so heavily regulate mining in Oregon that it will destroy the rights of miners. You can read the draft here.

Jackson, who says that he intends to call an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee of the Galice Mining District regarding the issue, says that he is particularly alarmed by the use of language in the draft, which he says is deceptive and often misleading.

"There seems to be a recurring theme in this draft that suggests that miners who are not self-described 'recreational miners', as defined in ORS 517.120, are going to be imprisoned and fined if they are using any type of mechanical equipment, including a suction machine, on their claim without having a Notice of Intent or Plan of Operation that has been approved by BLM or USFS in place. As many miners are certainly aware, here in Oregon, many Mineral Estate Grantees have openly rebelled against the idea that an NOI or a Plan of Operation is required for them to mine upon their property. There is a long brewing debate between miners and the agencies on this issue. The position of the agencies is that the Surface Resources Act and also the FLPMA requires that they impose Plan of Operations in certain circumstances, while the position of many miners is that mineral deposits located under the 1872 Mining Act had specific exemptions from those requirements. Regardless of what side of that debate you are on, the State of Oregon lacks lawful authority to make any demands on Mineral Estate Grantees in that regard. Much the same way, the basic policy of the agencies has been that certain types of mechanical mining equipment do not require a Notice of Intent or a Plan of Operation and the State of Oregon has no lawful authority to impose its will on the agencies any more than it does upon the miners. In addition, the draft absolutely forbids the use of mechanized equipment on unappropriated lands managed by the United States. Ultimately, this means that the State of Oregon is attempting to restrict the prospecting methods of a miner attempting to make a legitimate discovery on unappropriated lands to the limitations of a gold pan. Much the same way, it attempts to restrict those miners who choose not to make a location from doing anything more than prospecting with a pan. That constitutes a prohibition and is an outrage against the 1872 Mining Act, which the states have no authority to meddle with. Basically, the draft violates federal law as the legislature of this state is expressly forbidden from interfering with the will of Congress."

"Another problem with this draft," Jackson adds, "is the wishy-washy language of the definitions outlined in ORS 517.120 which it references. None of these definitions accurately correspond with the language in the Mining Law, which leads us to wonder if any of the so-called exemptions apply to the granted mineral property of most miners. At the very least, even if there is not an intent to target the rights of miners, the mis-use of language is going to result in abuses by the State of Oregon. Another very alarming problem lies in the fact that the draft does not enumerate upon mining activity on patented property. This suggests that anyone mining on a patented claim with more than a hand sluice or a gold pan will be subject to imprisonment and, or fines. All in all, what we are seeing is that there are public servants inside the State of Oregon who are pushing to totally destroy the right to mine. This is a very serious issue developing."

Jackson also points out that the draft places strict limitations on when and where miners may mine on rivers, creating a prohibition on mining within 500 feet of any residence, campground or area designated for swimming.

Tacked onto the draft is also far reaching restriction on the appropriation of water.

"Not only will this adversely effect miners, but also ranchers, farmers and everyday people," Jackson noted. "There are restrictions in this draft that could put a rancher out of business because it will limit the amount of water that he can appropriate for his livestock if his ranch gets water from a particular waterway and even if he has a pre-existing water right, the draft can call to limit the amount of water he can appropriate. Much as it does to mining, there is nothing in the draft to forbid the State of Oregon from creating a takings apart from offering the typical red tape of administrative appeals."

"Basically, all this draft is, is a continuation of what has been taking place in California," Jackson noted. "If we can't stop it in Oregon, it will spread into other states. As we did with Atkinson's legislation, what we need is for miners everywhere to pull together and give the anti-mining, anti-property crowd another beating to remember".
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Miners and others who are concerned about this alarming legislative concept and attacks on property rights are encouraged to voice their opposition to LC 2125. In addition to spreading the word about this dangerous legislative draft to others, we request that you make your feelings known about LC 2125 to the Oregon Senate Interim Committee on Environment and Natural Resources BEFORE December 11th, 2012.

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To make your voice heard, please contact the following Senate Committee Members: (note: we reccommend not only sending them e-mail, but also calling them).

Senator Jackie Dingfelder
D-Portland
District 23
Phone: 503-986-1723
E-mail: sen.jackiedingfelder@state.or.us
 

Senator Alan Olsen
R-Canby
District 20
Phone: 503-986-1720
E-mail: sen.alanolsen@state.or.us
 

Senator Mark Hass
D-District 14
Phone: 503-986-1714
E-mail: sen.markhass@state.or.us
 

Senator Floyd Prozanski
D-South Lane and North Douglas Counties
District 4
Phone: 541-342-2447
E-mail: sen.floydprozanski@state.or.us
 

Senator Chuck Thomsen
R-Hood River
District 26
Phone: 503-986-1726
E-mail: sen.chuckthomsen@state.or.us
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
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