Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to “end all mining” ?
Somehow, I lost a long reply I thought I posted. Well, let’s see if I can reconstruct it. I’ll start with what I ended the other one with.
I think you’re reacting from your fears of what the bill might mean more than what it’s likely to mean. It’s always a good idea to be vigilant about "unintended consequences," and that might help Congress to draft better legislation if you make sure the input is directed where it will help. Unfortunately, I think the industry group represented by the story in the OP wants to scare little guys like you into just knee-jerk opposition because the people they really represent, the big miners, don’t want anything to interfere with the gravy train they’ve been enjoying since 1872. It always makes better press if the public thinks poor little mom & pop operations are going to be destroyed by the evul gubmint.
That being said, there is nevertheless a crying need for regulation of all scales of mining. You might be perfectly responsible, but I have seen the damage done and had to clean up a couple of campsites. It always disturbed me that there is really no regulatory way to prevent that damage, because the 1872 Mining Law places almost all of the rights with the miner. It’s a law that might have made sense in the 19th century when everybody believed the resources were limitless and growth would continue forever, (sound familiar?) but it has long since outlived its usefulness.
Now, to your points:
Point # 1 and much of the last paragraph involve the ability of "government officials" to interpret the law as they see fit. I agree the bill needs to use more specific language. I would like to see more of the provisions apply to placer mining, but if that’s not the intent of the bill, the authors should make that clear. They need to specify which provisions would apply to placer, hard-rock and surface mining.
But your understanding of how laws are interpreted is flawed. The law, once passed, will trigger a process by which the agencies write regulations for implementation. This will be done at the agency (e.g., the FS, BLM, BIA, etc.) or possibly at the Department level (DOI and USDA). There will be a long process, probably years, of scoping, public involvment, appointing an interdiciplinary team, drafting the giuidelines, publishing the draft regs in the Federal Register, collecting input on the draft regs, finalizing the regs, and publishing the final regs. Then, at the more local level (regional and forest in the case of the FS) the regulations will be included as guidelines in drafts or addendums to the Land Management Plans. In every case that I have seen the effects of the localized guidelines has been to weaken the regs, never to strengthen them. The DR will, of course, have some latitude over what regs get enforced and how strictly. Again, the enforcement by the DRs is almost always lax compared with the potential of the regs. I worked under one DR in Nevada who made a courageous attempt to enforce some water quality regs on grazing permitees and he had his house bombed for his trouble.
Point # 2, again here I don’t think you’re being completely straight with us. Do a cntrl-f on the bill for "significant" and you get several hits, but I think the most germaine to the discussion is this one under the heading "Enforcement":
(2) If the Secretary concerned, or the authorized representative of the Secretary concerned, determines that any condition or practice exists, or that any person is in violation of any requirement under a permit approved under this Act, and such condition, practice or violation is causing, or can reasonably be expected to cause–
(A) an imminent danger to the health or safety of the public; or
(B) significant, imminent environmental harm to land, air, water, or fish or wildlife resources,
such Secretary or authorized representative shall immediately order a cessation of mineral activities or the portion thereof relevant to the condition, practice, or violation.
In other words, the official must make a determination of significance before there can be any enforcement.
The only reference I can find to the use of the phrase "any disturbance" is the section you quoted selectively and I placed in full, that is, the one that clearly defined and limited the meaning of the term "casual use."
Point # 2, again here I don’t think you’re being completely straight with us.
I am absolutely trying to be straight and tell it like it is. I can tell you from first hand experience that Rangers will make up the rules to suit their own bias or interest. Here is a couple of examples. You will consider them anecdotal but I experienced these and know they happened.
Some years ago when I bought my first dredge I wanted to find a place near my home (LA) that I could try it out. I had heard that one could dredge on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. However, being the law abiding citizen that I am I wanted to make sure that I did not break any rules so I decided to call the local Ranger to see about the regulations. I managed to get a Ranger on the phone and I asked about dredging. She politely told me that she was a little new to the area and was not sure but she would check with area supervisor and if I called back the next day I would have answer. I called back the next day and she said that the supervisor said that there was absolutely no dredging allowed anywhere on the East Fork. HMMM. This did not track with other information that I had so I proceeded to track down the rules and regulations. I studied them carefully and discovered that dredging was indeed allowed below the Cattle Canyon bridge on the East Fork. So I took a trip there to check it out. And low and behold there were several people there dredging. Now interestingly enough some Rangers actually came by to take a look. The Rangers knew that dredging was allowed yet they tried to dissaude me from going there. THEY MADE IT UP.
Another example that I was not directly involved with but I monitored.
Several years ago (probably 5-6) a member of another forum that I frequent said that the Uinta National Forest did not allow the use of metal detectors in the forest. Indeed, I went to the web-site and sure enough the information on the web-site said that generally metal-detectors are not allowed and should not be used in the Uinta National Forest. This cause was taken up by two very knowledgable people that started to write letters not only to the Ranger in Utah but also to the supervisory people in Washington D. C. It took about 2 months before the "Rule" was changed so that metal detecting was ok. I saw a copy of the response letter from the Ranger stating that his rationale was that they were afraid of people using metal detectors would find artifacts from archeological sites and perhaps disturb them. Well, he made up rule about metal detectors. Some sort of rationale like; it is illegal to disturb artifacts, Someone with a metal detector might find an artifact, so I can make metal detectors illegal. I wish I had saved copies of all that but I did not.
The overriding point that I have been trying to make is that if there is any "wiggle" room in a law or regulation government officials will interpret it to fit their own bias. I have seen this time and again not only regarding mining but other activities as well.
You may well be a reasonable person. That is no reason to suspect that other government employees are reasonable.
I don’t think it is an accident or oversight that HR 699 uses the term "mining claim" instead of "Lode Mining Claim"
First of all, if there are problems at a local level in the interpretation of national guidelines, then there are very well-established administrative and legal procedures for dealing with it, as your friends on the Klamath illustrate very well.
Second, I think you’re confused about exactly what constitutes a "Ranger." The District Ranger is a line officer at the head of the chain of command for a Ranger District. It doesn’t sound to me like you talked to a District Ranger. You certainly didn’t encounter "Rangers" in the field. If you ever happen to run across a DR in the field, he/she is probably leading a huge dog-and-pony show with visiting dignitaries. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but the DR is mostly an office beast. There are NO other personnel in the USFS with the title "ranger." It’s possible you were on Park Service land, in which case the title "ranger" is roughly comparable to the FS title "forester" and can be anyone from the lowest hiree to a supervisor.
It sounds to me like you talked to some lower echelon personnel who didn’t know what they were talking about. I’ve seen that many times, not everyone you run into in the field or in the office is knowledgable about policy. I suspect that the place you mentioned is on the Angeles NF. I know from being there on a couple of fires that that their focus is necessarily in the recreational resource. They have a huge job in managing very finite resources for a population that overwhelms it just about every weekend.
On the second example, it sounds like the matter was resolved through the appropriate channels. That a local official might make a judgment call that is beyond his/her authority is certainly no reason to continue with outdated and inadequate rules governing the use of public resources. Especially when we know that the results have been a disaster.
I’ve frankly seen worse cases of local interpretation, both for and against users, but I’d say about 90% in favor of the user and to the detriment of the resource. This is commonly because district personnel tend to have a strong bias toward the resource-using community. They live in the local communities, their kids go to the same schools, they shop in the same stores, and they were mostly educated in universities that didn’t teach them anything about environmental effects of resource extraction. At least that’s been the way it’s been for most of the history of the USFS. This is of course, most visible in the timber field, but in places like the Yuba District on the Tahoe, it is very mining-oriented.
On the last point, I obviously don’t share your knee-jerk distrust of everything having to do with the govt. I suspect that the reason the language is (so far) not specific enough is that the staffer sitting in DC writing the bill doesn’t have the level of discriminating knowledge about the issue that you and a lot of people have. Why don’t you try constructively educating them?
I am stunned by the lack of understanding of how necessary mining is to our lifestyle. So, I guess all of you who want to see the industry go away, are also willing to give up driving hybrid cars which require about 50 lbs of rare earth metals each, about a hundred lbs of lithium, and a couple thousand lbs of steel, all of which have to mined, some of which are quite rare and are only available from mines. I guess you also are willing to give up on solar power and wind power, since both of those technologies require rare metals to build them. The most efficient solar panels use some of the most exotic metals that are only mined in a few places. Of course, if modern agriculture has no source for potassium and phosphate fertilizers, which are mined, most agricultural operations will be significantly less efficient and some will simply end. Then there are useless things like computers which depend on copper, gold, and quite a few other materials that must be mined. Oil and gas, which you probably think are also unnecessary could not be produced without tons of steel and various other metals used in drill pipe, drill bits, and pipelines. Electricity? Forget it. If you wipe out the mining industry you simply will not be able to have electricity, since about 50% of our electricity comes from mined coal, and another large portion comes from nuclear which also requires mined uranium. Hydropower and geothermal power would also go away since they depend on mined materials to build their equipment. Oh yeah, that stuff you call a wall, its made from gypsum and it comes from mines. Plastic? Lots of plastic is made from natural gas, but also requires additives like sulphur that have to be mined. Concrete? It couldn’t exist without quarries and mines. Gravel roads and asphalt roads? Not those either, as aggregate is the largest mining product of US mines. Glass? Sorry, it has to be mined. Paint? Ever read the ingredients of white paints, which mostly contain titanium dioxide from mines. Paper? You probably don’t realize that most magazine paper contains high percentages of clay which is mined. Kittly litter? Forget it, it has to be mined. If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it, and if you need to grow it, you still need to mine something in order to do that at any level beyond subsistence. There is nothing, including the thoughts in your mind, that could exist without mining (ever heard of minerals in food). Fortunately this bill seems to have died in committee, since if it were put into law, it would have been the death of most US-based industries. Anyone (such as several posters above) who proposes “eliminating” the mining industry is either a total fool or an idiot, and anyone who does not recognize that the products of mining are essential to a productive economy and to daily life must have failed science in school.
Thank you Carbonates , I did not stop and think about everything that is mined . Gypsum mining employs half of our town . It is very clean and except for one plant you would not even know it was there.
Salt mines are in the southern part of the state . There are many treasures we have been digging up for many years . I do not see how or why they would even want to end all mining .
RE: natural gas extraction method-fracking
For someone looking at buying land, I’m not happy. It looks like it has the potential of damaging ground water and thus making your well useless—am I missing something here????
Impact on drinking water a big issue: http://www.timesleader.com/news/hottopics/shale/Hundreds_put_focus_on__lsquo_fracking_rsquo__09-13-2010.html
Feel sorry for this guy–“Drillers’ rights top landowners”: http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/shale-shock/Content?oid=1262788
“We, the undersigned, believe that the high-volume slickwater horizontal hydrofracking gas extraction technique threatens our water and air.” http://shaleshock.org/
“The Fayetteville Shale gas field is concentrated in six counties: White, Faulkner, Cleburne, Conway, Van Buren and Pope, about 2.5 million acres of minerals have been leased there in a two-and-a-half-year period….” YES, in 2 1/2 years! http://www.arfb.com/news_information/ark_agri/2007v4i2/fayetteville_shale.aspx
From a blogger: “Been hearing more and more about the Marcellus Shale in PA, NY, VA, WV…lots of problems already happening. One of the biggest problems is the used fracking liquid. There is currently no available technology to take the salinity out of it, let alone some of the other stuff that’s in it. They are either putting it through municipal sewage plants SIMPLY TO DILUTE IT, or re-injecting it underground to get rid of it. And it’s a LOT of fluid we’re talking about.” http://ozarkanglers.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=23731
Otherside of the coin—
I thought this was very interesting–now hiring–: http://www.landmen.net/JobBank/JobHiring.asp
H.R.R. 699 (NW Mining Assoc’s take on the bill): http://www.nwma.org/pdf/The%20Top%20Ten%20Problems%20with%20HR%20699.pdf
Thanks for resurrecting this dead discussion to add… nothing.
Please point out to me anywhere anyone in this thread advocated that the industry “go away.” Unfortunately, that sort of empty-headed emotionalism is what one can expect from the mining industry whenever the most minimal limitations on their ability to do whatever they want is proposed.
Do you have anything constructive to add about this bill?