Galice Mining District
SB 370: Oregon Senator Alan Bates Launches New Attack on Oregon Mining

Were it not enough that miners in Oregon were not already under attack by SB 117 (previously known as LC 2125), in a surprise attack, Oregon State Senator, Alan Bates (D-Ashland) recently submitted his own attack on Oregon placer mining with the introduction of his own bill, SB 370.

Bates, it will be remembered, was a co-sponsor of former State Senator Jason Atkinson's attack on mining in Oregon back in 2011, which drew so much ire from miners throughout the country that he promptly killed his bill, SB 765, stating that the bill was "not worth falling on the sword for" after he publicly "declared war" on miners. Apparently, Senator Alan Bates did not learn much from Jason Atkinson, who recently retired from the political arena after being successfully challenged for his seat by local farmer and forestry worker, Herman Baertschiger Jr.

The new bill, SB 370, which Bates has not yet listed on his own website, seeks to impose greater requirements for miners to obtain permits for so-called "commercial mining" which is not actually even defined in the bill's language but seems to indicate that it may include motorized mining utilizing a suction nozzle with an inside diameter of less than four inches, sets a fee of $125 for the permit (DSL being given 100% liberty to write said permit) and threatens non-compliance with imprisonment and heavy fines.

You can read the bill here.

Galice Mining District Chief Executive Officer, Kerby Jackson, said that the bill is just another recent example of the State of Oregon's attempts to unlawfully over-step their authority over the 1872 Mining Act.

"The lawful authority of the Oregon Department of State Lands extends only over lands that the State of Oregon owns or manages," Jackson explained. "As a division of the Oregon State Land Board, originally, this authority was limited by the Oregon Admission Act of 1859 to the State School Lands and the beds of navigable waterways that were used as common public highways. The intent of Congress was for the state to utilize the mineral, timber and other resources of those lands for the benefit of the state. Originally, the 

State Land Board oversaw about 6% of the lands in the state. Later on, the state chose to sell much of that land off. Today their authority extends only over about two million acres of land in this state, which includes the remaining school lands, state parks, state forests and lands owned by varying state agencies. That's less than one percent of the entire state. However, the Land Board and DSL's authority do not extend over non-navigable waterways, public lands and public domain managed by the federal government or privately owned land. In particular, the state lacks authority on lands which have been appropriated from the Public Domain of the United States. What I'm saying in a nutshell, is that DSL and other Oregon state agencies do not have lawful authority on a locatable mineral deposit and their right to regulate does not extend upon land which they do not manage."

SB 370, Jackson notes, creates a blanket regulation over placer mining anywhere inside the State of Oregon, stating in part:

"a person may not practice commercial placer mining in this state (emphasis added) unless the person acquires a commercial placer mining permit from the Department of State Lands".

The bill goes on to state:

"(2) Commercial placer mining taking place under a permit issued under this section:

  (a) May not use a suction nozzle with an inside diameter greater than four inches;

  (b) Must occur upstream of all activities specified in rules adopted by the Director of the Department of State Lands;

  (c) Must conform to rules adopted by the director regarding the safe placement of gasoline cans; and

  (d) Must conform to any other rules adopted by the director under this section."

The language seems to indicate that any mining that utilizes a suction nozzle with an inside diamater of less than four inches is to be classified as "commercial mining". If this is the case, it remains clear that Alan Bates doesn't know much about mining, since machines of this small size are only rarely used by those who describe themselves as "commercial miners".

The bill also imposes a permit fee of $125 and then imposes stiff penalties for non-compliance, which include 30 days imprisonment and a fine of $1250.

"Let's call it what it really is," Jackson said. "It's nothing more than an attempt to try to create compliance on the part of the miners to obtain an illegal permit from an agency with no authority through the use of inciting fear of loss of freedom or property. We already know that Bates is anti-mining. Isn't that a type of terrorism, when you try fo further a political agenda using the threat of imprisonment through illegal regulation?"

 In fact, the Code of Federal Regulations (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85) actually defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

"Let's be clear about something," Jackson added. "This legislation is completely inconsistant with the 1872 Mining Act and is going to create a serious liability problem for the State of Oregon, not too mention its employees who are expected to enforce the so-called law if the bill is adopted. The fact is, many miners are going to refuse to comply for the simple fact that they know what their rights are. They understand that they have property rights and a right to benefit from their property. Any agent of the State of Oregon who goes on the mineral property of those miners and who makes an attempt to arrest that miner simply for the crime of excercising his rights is going to find themselves open to not only civil action, but also likely criminal prosecution."