Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

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  • Wed, Jun 17, 2009 - 02:40pm

    #11
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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

Good point green_achers, many mining companies will either accept the loss of a deposit or even a fine because, business-wise, it’s less expensive than paying for the actual clean up. I’m not saying that there aren’t some mining companies out there that try to be responsible, but I do feel that they are few and far between. I’ve worked on oil spill clean ups and river clean ups near strip & blast mines… and while the company may have gotten in some trouble for the accident or pollution, the damage was already done.

So, if any new legislation can enforce PROACTIVE safety and environmental meausres instead of REACTIVE clean-ups, and make it more painful (i.e. cost more or close them down) for a mining company to be irresponsible… then I’m all for at least carefully reading through the bill and lending my support/vote if I agree.  I’m not a big proponent of nanny-state over-regulation, but someone has to put a leash on these large corporations who will destroy everything as long as they make a profit.

  • Wed, Jun 17, 2009 - 05:13pm

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

[quote=PlicketyCat]

OK Ken – so you’re saying that I could just take the family up to Prudhoe Bay and have myself a lovely little picnic, maybe even take in some fishing?!  I seriously beg to differ… whether it’s the law or not, every large scale mining operation I’ve encountered on public land restricts access to the land. It may be for safety reasons or security reasons, but it amounts to the same thing… no more public access. And who in their right mind would try to enjoy the day, or hunt or fish, on land or in water that is disturbed and often polluted by the mining activities in progress?! 

[/quote]

Plickety

Prudhoe Bay is an oil and gas operation and not a gold mining claim. It would fall under a
different set of laws and regulations. Perhaps a better example would be the Fort Knox Mine
operated by Kinross near Fairbanks.

Perhaps a few definitions and some background would be of some value at this point.

http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/requirements.html

There are two types of mining claims Lode and Placer. A lode claim is generally the type claim associated with the large scale "hard rock" mines. A placer claim is worked from the surface.

A mining claim can be filed by anyone on public land that is open to mining and is not currently claimed. Actually, it can be overstaked but that is a completely different legal issue that we ignore for now.

The Process is basically:
     1. Locating the claim
     2. Recording the claim
     3. Paying the fees

The mining claim only give you the right to any minerals there might be. It does not give you the right to exclude anyone else.

Now once you have the claim you can proceed to prove up the worth of the claim to see if it justifies further expense. For a Lode claim that is expected to be a large scale mine it can take at least 10 years and many millions of dollars to do this. Once you have justified the existence of sufficient resources to show that it would be profitable you have to begin the permitting process to satisfy every Federal government agency in existence. These would include EPA, BLM, Forest Service, Army Corp., Additionally, any state agencies would have to be involved in the process. Once you plan and permits are approved with appropriate bonding you
can start  mining. The permitting process for this large mine would include some ability for exclusive use of the area while mining.

As you can see to open a large scale mine under existing law is no small undertaking.

Now discussions about the proposed law HR 699 implies that it is only effecting the mega scale mine but that is not the case.

Here is an example:

Casual use would be redefined to allow only those activities that do not cause  “any disturbance" of public lands and resources

ANY DISTURBANCE !!!!  If you WALK across public land you leave a footprint which is a disturbance.

I am not a large scale miner but I do small scale placer mining and HR 699 if enacted will effect all miners not just the mega-scale mines.

Now if you think that I am over reacting or even paranoid I assure that I am not. If a law can be abused by authorities it will be abused. Here is an example of abuse:

Not too ago a miner using a pan in a river near Shasta Calif. was cited for that activity. The authorities pulled out all the stops to try to get a conviction. It cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend this miner- all because some DFG agent did not like the activity.
The defense was successful but this is just an illustration of how the authorities will  try to bend the interpretation of every rule if they just don’t like what you are doing And this is under existing law. And this is only an illustration of how local authorities will try to bend the interpretation of any law to meet their own ideas.

http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/miners/shastaminrswon091007.htm

Now if this new law is passed every small scale miner will forced to go through all of the same effort as the mega mines. That will make it impossible to do any small scale mining because it will be cost prohibitive.

We need less government not more government

 

  • Wed, Jun 17, 2009 - 06:58pm

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

I agree that we need less government not more… but with that also implies that small-scale industries need to be responsible without regulation, and large scale companies… well I don’t think they’re capable of being responsible without being forced.

I do feel for any small-scale miner being regulated out of existence… it’s the same for farmers, an issue very close to my heart. All the red tape does nothing but assure that only the large scale, heavily funded corps can get through it… and we want that to go the opposite direction!!

So, the ideal solution would be to put in place guidelines for all operations, clearly define large vs. small, and put in exemptions for the small scale while holding the large scale’s asses to the fire. Small scale should not be held to the same regulatory burdens as large scale UNLESS and UNTIL they have been proven to be a hazard; unlike large scale where we can just assume that they’re going to be a hazard in one way or another.

I don’t agree with HR 699 as it is currently written; it’s needs further work; but it is a step in the right direction to control the large scale operations that are abusing the existing laws and are truly damaging the environment despite the meager controls that are currently in place.

  • Wed, Jun 17, 2009 - 09:41pm

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

[quote=kenc]
Prudhoe Bay is an oil and gas operation and not a gold mining claim. It would fall under a
different set of laws and regulations. Perhaps a better example would be the Fort Knox Mine
operated by Kinross near Fairbanks.[/quote]

The bill deals with "hard rock" mining.  Wouldn’t include Prudhoe Bay, but this discussion is certainly broader than gold mining.  Besides, Plickety was using that as an analogy, so I don’t think a perfect match is required.

[quote=kenc]There are two types of mining claims Lode and Placer. (etc., definitions from BLM)[/quote]

As I read the article (though it’s definitely not clear, and hard to get past the hysterical volume) this bill would not deal with placer mining, just hard-rock mining.

[quote=kenc]Here is an example:

Casual use would be redefined to allow only those activities that do not cause  “any disturbance" of public lands and resources

ANY DISTURBANCE !!!!  If you WALK across public land you leave a footprint which is a disturbance.[/quote]

Well, except that’s contradicted by the original article:

The collection of samples, use of gold pans and non-motorized sluices would be the only activities allowed without a Notice or Plan. Taking a vehicle off-road would also require a Notice or Plan. Any extraction of minerals for sale or use would require a Notice or Plan.

[quote=kenc]
I am not a large scale miner but I do small scale placer mining and HR 699 if enacted will effect all miners not just the mega-scale mines. [/quote]

Do you have a better reference on the bill than the link, then?  Because nothing I saw in the article contradicted the title of the bill, which strictly deals with hard-rock mining.

[quote=kenc]Now if you think that I am over reacting or even paranoid I assure that I am not. If a law can be abused by authorities it will be abused. Here is an example of abuse:

Not too ago a miner using a pan in a river near Shasta Calif. was cited for that activity. The authorities pulled out all the stops to try to get a conviction. It cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend this miner- all because some DFG agent did not like the activity.
The defense was successful but this is just an illustration of how the authorities will  try to bend the interpretation of every rule if they just don’t like what you are doing And this is under existing law. And this is only an illustration of how local authorities will try to bend the interpretation of any law to meet their own ideas.

http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/miners/shastaminrswon091007.htm%5B/quote%5D

Well, according to the story, at least one of the miners (who got the hung jury) was high-banking, and that’s definitely not a harmless activity.  We don’t have enough information to know if this was a case of "abuse," but I would not assume that the miners were innocent.  I have seen a lot of damage done in a short period of time by "recreational" miners using pretty primitive equipment.

[quote=kenc]
We need less government not more government[/quote]

Well, that’s an easy, knee-jerk statement to make, but it’s about as useful to this discussion as mammaries on a rooster.  We have major problems with our economy and environment these days, many of which have been well discussed on this site.  Some are a result of too much government, some are definitely a result of too little governmental oversight.  The legacy of mining in the western US is definitely a case of the latter.

  • Wed, Jun 17, 2009 - 11:44pm

    #15
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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

Green Arches,
Here is a link to the full text of the bill

Text of H.R. 699: Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-699

PLease note several of the  important excerpts from the bill. When defining claim holder they make no distinction between Placer Claim or Lode Claim even though the title of the bill says "Hard Rock" This means that a small miner with 1 or 2 claims will be required to fullfill all of these requirements before processing any material for sale.

    (5) The term ‘claim holder’ means a person holding a mining claim, millsite claim, or tunnel site claim located under the general      mining laws and maintained in compliance with such laws and this Act. Such term may include an agent of a claim holder.

Take a look at the description of fees. This is basically the same claim filing structure as current law. However, under current law a placer miner can work the claim without an official "Plan of Operations" so long as no significant disturbance takes place. With the new definition that"any disturbance" constitutes non-casual use a Plan of Operations must be filed and approved. This means that the small miner must do everything that big mines do before any work takes place.

(a) Fee-

(1) Except as provided in section 2511(e)(2) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (relating to oil shale claims), for each unpatented mining claim, mill or tunnel site on federally owned lands, whether located before, on, or after enactment of this Act, each claimant shall pay to the Secretary, on or before August 31 of each year, a claim maintenance fee of $150 per claim to hold such unpatented mining claim, mill or tunnel site for the assessment year beginning at noon on the next day, September 1. Such claim maintenance fee shall be in lieu of the assessment work requirement contained in the Mining Law of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 28 et seq.) and the related filing requirements contained in section 314(a) and (c) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1744(a) and (c)).

(2)(A) The claim maintenance fee required under this subsection shall be waived for a claimant who certifies in writing to the Secretary that on the date the payment was due, the claimant and all related parties–

(i) held not more than 10 mining claims, mill sites, or tunnel sites, or any combination thereof, on public lands; and

(ii) have performed assessment work required under the Mining Law of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 28 et seq.) to maintain the mining claims held by the claimant and such related parties for the assessment year ending on noon of September 1 of the calendar year in which payment of the claim maintenance fee was due.

Your comment about highbanking needs to be addressed also. Under existing rules any holes dug or work done must be repaired/filled in. Also, highbanking activities should not cause run off back into the river/stream. 

Now as far as your comment about the third miner in the Shasta group having a hung jury- No further action was taken against him so the government lost on all counts. I am familiar with this case because I contributed  many FRN’s to help in the defense. We should not have had to do this. 

But the point of my using this example is that local authorities with their own ax to grind will attempt to use any uncertainty or vagueness in a law to pursue their own agenda. That was case here. If HR 699 becomes law then you will see the end of small scale mining for sure. No small miner with 1 or even a few claims could afford to pay the HUGE expenses upfront to be able to work a claim and supplement his income. Not to mention dealing with the litigation fees caused by over zealous Forest Rangers, BLM employees or people that simply don’t want you there. Many government employees take the attitude that they can do what they want and if you don’t like it you can sue them in court.

When I get more time and motivation I will share some more information about this situation.

Ken

 

  • Wed, Jun 17, 2009 - 11:53pm

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

Well, ken, I understand your concerns.  I have certainly heard them for years whenever anyone tried to strengthen that law.  However, I really don’t see anything you’ve presented here as being all that onerous for even small-scale miners.  Small-scale miners do have  impacts, as a minimally educated eye looking at the Yuba River would attest.  The fact that this has been allowed to go on since some time before 1872 does not make it any less damaging.  the effects of dredge mining in stream gravels and high-banking on salmon spawning gravels are visible and measurable.

Just like the big boys, if you can’t do your activity without damaging the resource, then some form of authority has to be brought to bear to prevent it.  If you can, then the authority is necessary to protect your interests as well as the public’s from the less responsible players.  for anyone that is educated about and cares about the integrity of the aquatic ecosystem, BAU is not acceptable, sorry.

  • Thu, Jun 18, 2009 - 01:50am

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

[quote=green_achers]

  However, I really don’t see anything you’ve presented here as being all that onerous for even small-scale miners.

[/quote]

 If a small miner has to spend very large sums of money to be able to earn a very small sum then it is very difficult to make that up in volume. This will put the miner out of business before he begins. How is that for onerous.

 

[quote=green_achers]

 the effects of dredge mining in stream gravels and high-banking on salmon spawning gravels are visible and measurable.

[/quote]

"Measurable" – you say. Where is your source for this .

Well the Army Corp of Engineers say "de minimis (i.e., inconsequential) effects on aquatic resources"

 

Here are some excerpts from  studies that show that suction dredge mining is not detrimental to salmon or other fish as you claim.

Prepared For:

US Environmental Protection Agency
Region 10
Seattle, Washington

The second component of this project is to examine the effects of recreational suction dredging on smaller streams in Alaska. In 1997, sampling was conducted on a single site on Resurrection Creek, a designated recreational mining stream on the Kenai Peninsula. In 1998, sampling was conducted on the Chatanika River, known to be popular for recreational dredging. The Chatanika River was sampled at a location north of Fairbanks. The results from Resurrection Creek indicated that there was no difference in the macroinvertebrate community between the mining area and the locations downstream of the  mining area, in terms of macroinvertebrate density, taxa richness, EPT richness, or food resources. Results from the Chatanika showed slight downstream decreases in macroinvertebrate density, but all other measures remained similar to those of the reference area. In general, our results are in agreement with other studies that have found only localized reductions in macroinvertebrate abundance in relation to small-scale suction dredging.

http://www.akmining.com/mine/1999epa.htm

US Army Corps of Engineers – 1994

The main reason this SPECIAL PUBLIC NOTICE 94-10 is presented here is to show the Corps finding of de minimis (i.e., inconsequential) effects on aquatic resources for suction dredges with nozzle openings of 4 inches or less. This is an official recognition of what suction dredgers have long claimed; that below a certain size, the effects of suction dredging are so small and so short-term as to not warrant the regulations being imposed in many cases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in particular, has ignored this concept, although numerous studies, including the EPA’s own 1999 study of suction dredging, repeatedly and consistently support the Corps finding de minimis effects.

http://www.akmining.com/mine/corp9410.htm

 

There are many other studies that could be referenced concerning environment, habitat, and fisheries but I really don’t think that you have any interest in having an open mind about this subject. It is clear that you have made up your mind and you will not listen to any message that does not coincide with your belief. Unfortunately, I have met many others of the same persausion.

I am also a fisherman, hunter and outdoorsman. I along with many other small scale miners are good stewards of the environment and we try to leave the place better than we found it.

Ken

 

 P. S. So far I have provided several references and sources. You have provided exactly NONE.

  • Thu, Jun 18, 2009 - 03:07am

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

Ken – green_achers isn’t siting a bunch of formal, homogenized, (potentially suspect) third-party studies because he has personal, professional experience:

[quote=green_achers]My knowledge of the situation is based on more than a decade of employment with the USFS, including a stint on the Tahoe NF, which has more gold mining claims than any other forest in Region 5 (California), and I would guess more than any other forest in the country.  As a hydrologist, part of my job was to work on the environmental assessment and mitigation side of the issue. [/quote]

I think we all have some very valid points, and more in common than we recognize. Seems that we’re arguing about a few smaller points, while failing to address the commonalities. We each have differing perspectives and feelings about the issue, but if we start from the things we do agree on, instead of polarizing on the things we don’t, I think we’ll make more headway.

For instance, we all agree that mining has an impact, often negative, and large-scale much more so than small-scale. We all agree that we need to be responsible stewards. We all agree that guidelines need to exist to ensure responsible action, but those guidelines need to be clear and appropriate to the scale of the operation.

This is a perfect example of how the government legislatory process works — you have an invested environmentalist, an invested capital party, and someone trying to meet in the middle. If we can discuss the issues and reach a high level solution… maybe there is hope that our government can do it as well.  The activitists can’t always win. The capitalists can’t always win. Sometimes we all have to make acceptable compromises and can’t have their own way all the time.

  • Thu, Jun 18, 2009 - 04:03am

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

ken, thanks for the link to the bill.  I didn’t read every word, but I scanned it from top to bottom, and think I have a better understanding of it now.  I still don’t see anything outrageous.  You’ll have to pay a fee of $150 per claim if you have more than 10 claims, which you state is basically the same as now.  There is a requirement to post a bond or other obligation, which I think is a very good thing, I just hope it requires big enough bonds to get the cleanup done.  There is also the requirement to pay a royalty based on the value extracted.  I think it’s about time the public got a share of the value taken out of its lands.

As far as the effects of dredging, it’s been quite a few years since I worked in the field.  I know there were some studies that showed effects, others that did not.  I might look up some of the old references if I get time, but that’s not the point.  And your "several references" are one scientific study, an agency pamphlet, and some industry propaganda.  BTW, maybe it’s changed in the last few years, but can you find me a case where the ACoE turned down any kind of project on environmental grounds?  I remember one, in the Sacramento region of California, but the issue wasn’t mining.

I’m still not sure the act covers placer mining.  It reads to me as if it’s intended to apply to hardrock mining, specifically the repeated use of the phrase "mining claim, millsite claim, or tunnel site."  I know "mining claim" is overly broad, so perhaps that wording needs to be changed to calm your concerns, but I can’t imagine the Secretaries interpreting an act with "hardrock" in the title to apply to placer mining, though I might wish it would.

Now that I’ve read it, I don’t think the act is tough enough…. 😉

You also haven’t been exactly straight with us as to what constitutes "non-casual" activities.  The bill states:

(4) The term ‘casual use’–

 

(A) subject to subparagraphs (B) and (C), means mineral activities that do not ordinarily result in any disturbance of public lands and resources;

 

(B) includes collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using handtools, hand panning, or nonmotorized sluicing; and

 

(C) does not include–

 

(i) the use of mechanized earth-moving equipment, suction dredging, or explosives;

 

(ii) the use of motor vehicles in areas closed to off-road vehicles;

 

(iii) the construction of roads or drill pads; and

 

(iv) the use of toxic or hazardous materials.

 

So I find the "footprints" claim a little hard to take, to say the least.

It grandfathers in all unpatented claims with pre-existing plans of operation. for a period of 10 years.

It grandfathers in all patents perfected before the date orf enactment.

I think the exclusion of wilderness areas and W&S rivers is new, but again think it’s a good thing.

It does not even require a permit for casual use.

Oh, and here’s a beauty:

(c) Coordination With NEPA Process- To the extent practicable, the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture shall conduct the permit processes under this Act in coordination with the timing and other requirements under section 102 of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332).

That means the project doesn’t even have to comply with NEPA if it’s not "practicable."  We can only wonder what a future James Watt might consider "practicable."

  • Thu, Jun 18, 2009 - 07:41am

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    Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?

Green Arches,

 

You are missing two very important points that I will try to detail here:

 

1. The phrase "mining claim" is used in the text of the bill and not "placer claim" or "lode claim". Regardless of the intent of the bill’s sponsors government officials could interpret that to  mean all  mining claims. As I have pointed out in previous replies when local officials can interpret a statute they will interpret it to fit their own agenda.  Even if they don’t then a third party ( read Sierra club, et al) will sue the BLM to have the courts tell us that "mining claim" term means both kinds.

 

2. It is important to note that the current law reads "significant disturbance" and the new law would read "any disturbance". It has taken several court cases to pretty well define "significant disturbance". Since the new criteria would be "any disturbance" this could be (and will be) interpreted to fit the local government official bias.

 

Now you seem to take issue with the fact that I used the work "footprint" to describe any disturbance. You can not deny that a footprint is a change to the landscape even on a small scale. Therefore, it is a disturbance. But what I am trying to get at by using this term is to point out that the new definition makes it too easy for the District Ranger to decide that "any disturbance" for him/her is a shovel or a pick or hand trowel.  In other words; It is ok to collect minerals you just can dig or move rocks or make any change to MY forest that I don’t like.

 

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