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Mining Matters April/May 2016

by Sarah Reijonen

Mining Matters April/May 2016
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From the April/May 2016 Pick & Shovel Gazette


By Sarah Reijonen


Dredgers await Rinehart decision, fight SB 637

California miners and pro-mining groups, such as the American Mining Rights Association, Western Mining Alliance and Public Lands for the People are still anxiously awaiting a decision on the Brandon Rinehart California
Supreme Court case.

“Hopefully Rinehart will get some headway, though the state is still trying to delay, postpone, delay, postpone,” said AMRA President Shannon Poe. “Keeping us out of the water is a victory to them.”

AMRA and WMA are also working in conjunction with Rinehart’s lawyer, James Buchal, to combat Senate Bill 637, the newest attack on miners at the legislative level.

“There’s a lot we are doing behind the scenes. There are a lot of people working very hard on a daily basis on some avenues we can go down with SB 637,” Poe said. “I think James is going down the right path.”

Poe said AMRA is representing nine individual miners in California regarding limited access by the U.S. Forest Service. AMRA has also been getting wind of lots of misinformation regarding SB 637, including the myth that the new law restricts miners from even putting a shovel in the ground or using a pan, he said.

“There’s never been any definitions about what SB 637 can and can’t do,” Poe said.

Even California’s State Water  Resources Control Board—the agency SB 637 cites as being responsible for permitting under the new legislation—is unclear of its role.

“We sat down with the supervisor of the California Water Board and the Mine Inspector of the Water Board ... We said we want to get suction dredge permits. They said, ‘Well, we’re aware that this bill was passed, but we don’t know what we’re supposed to do,’ ” Poe said.

Again, the miners are being told they can obtain a permit that does not actually exist.

“They’ve heard nothing out of the Senate, nothing out of Sacramento—they’ve been given no direction,” Poe said. 

“Nobody knows who’s supposed to be out there enforcing this. They told the Department of Fish and Wildlife they want people cited, but they haven’t put anything into place to get a permit. That, by definition, is prohibitive and it’s in violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

CALL TO ACTION: Fight SB 637 by donating to the legal fund:

James Buchal

Murphy & Buchal LLP

3425 SE Yamhill Street #100

Portland, OR 97214 


Draconian Senate Bill 1530 dead — for now

Oregon miners breathed a sigh of relief in late February, when state Senate Bill 1530 died in committee.

Oregon’s dredging moratorium had not even been in place for a month before Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, introduced Senate Bill 1530, which would have extended the already far-reaching moratorium brought on by Senate Bill 838.

Waldo Mining District president Tom Kitchar said miners are pleased the bill did not pass, but are not quite ready to break out the champagne. 

“We’re not celebrating just yet until the legislative session ends,” Kitchar said. “SB 1530 was Bates’ replacement for 838, and it was worse than 838.” 

While SB 838 would close about 30 percent of Oregon streams to motorized placer mining, SB 1530 would have closed about 80 per cent, Kitchar said.

Kitchar said Bates is seething and has vowed to come back with a new bill in the next legislative session. 

While legislators present the bills as “opportunities” to still mine, Kitchar said this notion is a complete farce.

“Oregon’s claiming, ‘Well, we’re not stopping you from mining; you can still mine by hand.’ Environmentally, that is stupid. These shallow creeks, yes, you can work them by hand, just like they did 100 years ago. They took every single rock out of the creek, threw it on the bank, and they’re still sitting there,” Kitchar said.

Basically, the state is giving miners the go-ahead, but it has applied so many restrictions that mining with any kind of motorized equipment and with any substantial success is virtually impossible, Kitchar said.

“It’s like telling miners, ‘Yeah, you can mine, you just can’t dig holes,’ or telling a logger, ‘Yeah, you can log, you just can’t cut trees down,’” Kitchar said.

With SB 1530 now dead, Kitchar and fellow miners continue to combat SB 838 in the federal arena. Galice Mining District along with several other plaintiffs filed their complaint Oct. 19, 2015 in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Medford Division.

Although a hearing was slated for Feb. 18, no decision was made.

“The judge did not make a decision because the state is submitting another brief. They are claiming we don’t have standing—that we don’t have the right to be in court,” Kitchar said. 

CALL TO ACTION: Support Oregon miners by donating to their legal funds:

• Galice Mining District: 2750 Demaray Drive, Grants Pass, OR 97527. Website: Email:

Waldo Mining District: P.O. Box 1574, Cave Junction, OR 97523. Website: Email:

• James L. Buchal

Murphy & Buchal LLP

3425 SE Yamhill Street, Suite 100

Portland, OR  97214

(Please include “OREGON MORATORIUM FUND” in the check memo.)


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