By Sarah Reijonen
There was symbolism in its grand entrance.
Like pallbearers, American Mining Rights President Shannon Poe and fellow AMRA board members carried the prize, four-inch dredge in on their shoulders.
But, it wasn’t a funeral.
In fact, the Dec. 12 AMRA Fundraising Dinner was more like a revival, a big tent meeting under the sturdy roof of the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale, Calif., a central location where miners could rally together in California’s Mother Lode. More than 310 AMRA members and supporters gathered to raise funds for Brandon Rinehart’s Supreme Court case legal fees and join together in a show of solidarity for land access and mining rights.
“The dinner shows that the small mining community is hearing our calls of unity and is ready to join hands in opposition to what can only be described as tyranny on a grand scale,” Poe said.
AMRA demonstrated its support of mining world celebrity, Brandon Rinehart, and fellow mining and land rights advocacy group, Western Mining Alliance with two checks.
“Our goal was to become Brandon Rinehart’s No. 1 supporter,” Poe said before handing Rinehart a check for $5,000.
AMRA gave WMA a check for $2,500, and encouraged fellow miners to step up and support the group, which Poe praised for its tenacity and dedicated research in the fight “against tyranny,” but also poked fun at for its “terrible social media skills.”
“If you get a chance, donate to these guys,” Poe said, “or to Shannon Poe’s enhancement fund.”
WMA President Craig Lindsay said AMRA has been instrumental in coming alongside his mining advocacy group and supporting them in whatever way possible.
“AMRA’s been more than generous to Western Mining Alliance,” Lindsay said. And, WMA is going to need all the help it can get in the next battle against California’s Senate Bill 637, he said.
Aside from launching a new attack on the latest senate bill to jolt mining, mining groups are focused on the Rinehart case, which sits on the doorstep of the California Supreme Court, and as of late December, had racked up a bill of $60,000 in legal fees. Both WMA and AMRA have donated generously to keep Rinehart above water financially—but eventually get him and other miners back in the water.
“AMRA has always had my back,” Rinehart said. “There were a lot of new faces, which is a good thing. A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon.”
Still, it is baffling how the state of California can go after one of its own, said Brandon’s father, John Rinehart.
“It’s funny how the state can take taxpayer dollars to fight taxpayers,” John Rinehart said.
Not only did AMRA raise enough money to support Rinehart and WMA with hearty checks, but the mining group was also able to put some money away for its own New Year’s resolutions, which include fighting the U.S. Forest Service’s road restrictions and forceful actions against small-scale miners.
“We raised enough to donate $5,000 to Brandon and an additional $2,500 to WMA, then put some in our coffers to address our next year’s plans of battling the USFS over road and access closures and the Taser incident,” Poe said.
AMRA gives away the three G’s: Gold, Guns and Gear
It wasn’t just WMA, AMRA and Rinehart who benefited from the dinner. Attendees lined up to buy raffle tickets for the heap of prospecting prizes— including the four-inch dredge—sitting in the front of the room. In total, AMRA gave away more than $25,000 in prizes.
AMRA Member Greg Voisard, who won one of the 14 guns up for grabs during the evening, ran down to redeem an even bigger prize halfway through the event—his floating paradise. The words “Got gold?” on the back of his shirt read like a premonition of his good fortune.
If he didn’t have that yellow gold before, he certainly will now.
“I’m happy they did this,” said Voisard—and not just because he got to take home a shiny, new dredge. “I like that there weren’t just miners. There were also horse people, hunters, forest users…I appreciate what they do for miners and the public as a whole.”
Besides the dredge, AMRA gave away gold nuggets, an ounce gold bar, lifetime memberships to their club, as well as the New 49ers, highbankers, a trip to Roaring Camp, and plenty of swag.
GPAA clubs show up to support AMRA, unify with other prospectors
GPAA had a presence with support from the Delta Gold Diggers Chapter out of Stockton, the Paso Robles Chapter, and a sprinkling of other California GPAA chapters. Delta Gold Diggers President Robert Guardiola purchased a table and the club gave another table of eight seats away at one of its meetings.
“I think this is a great program Shannon and AMRA have put on,” said Guardiola, whose group donated a sound system, projector and screen for the evening. “They’ve done a lot of uniting. Most clubs have a presence here, and our club personally has been working with AMRA on national and local issues and promoting unity within the mining community.”
GPAA Paso Robles President Dave Fauset also attended the event with nearly a dozen chapter members. Fauset was one the last men standing in “Heads or Tails” and one of the card games of the evening, but the real reason he came was to support AMRA in its effort to promote public lands access and keep prospecting alive in the West.
The future of AMRA
AMRA plans to keep the fundraising dinner tradition alive as an annual event, possibly even a semi-annual event.
“The event exceeded our expectations and we are even discussing holding two dinners each year, possibly, with one in the summer, and a Christmas themed dinner like this one,” Poe said.
Guardiola echoed the sentiments of other dinner attendees when he said he was happy to be able to help and is eager to see what AMRA will do in the coming year.
“I think this will put AMRA in a good position to do the projects they want to do,” Guardiola said.
Sarah Reijonen is a freelance writer based in California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org