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

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

This brought to my attention by Chris Laird at Prudentsquirrel.com:

Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Resources Committee, reintroduced
mining reform legislation in the House of Representatives on January
27, 2009. The Congressman has obviously been away from real work for
far too long. H.R. 699, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of
2009, should be labeled H.R. 666 because it appears to have been
written by the Devil himself. If it passes as written, it will
completely destroy an entire industry.

http://www.icmj.com/article.php?id=56&keywords=Rahall_Proposes_Bill_to_E...

Scott

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

The 1872 Mining Law is one of the most evil in the history of the country. It explicitly enshrines mining as the "highest use of the land" and has enabled this criminal industry, really just a gang of thugs, to

- stake exclusive claims to large swathes of public property, for a mere pittance of a leasing fee,

- deny the public any further access to its own property,

- destroy the public land to extract public property minerals, for which they pay nothing in royalties,

- disregard all air and water laws, as they freely ravage and poison everything, all public property, in sight, 

- when they're finished, they can walk away from the devastated public property scot free, leaving the clean-up for the taxpayers,

- burdened only with lugging all the profit.

In addition, through the process of "patenting", they can claim public land on the vague allegation of an intention to mine it, fence it off to the public, pay pennies on the market value dollar to actually receive private title to the land, de jure privatization, and then simply sell it to developers to build condos or whatever, seeing profit ratios of 100:1 or more.

Many of the corporations who have benefitted from this rape of the American public are foreign.

Even by George Bush standards this privatize-profits socialize-costs regime is outrageous.

The 1872 Law (and its 1866 counterpart) are odious relics which should have been wiped away long ago. They're not fit for the 20th century, let alone the 21st. But the mining industry, perhaps the most selfish, greedy, and criminal of all special interests, can still buy enough western legislators, who engage in enough logrolling, that each time someone like Rahall tries to bury this fossil, it gets dug back up again.

I'm glad he's trying yet again.

 

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

The industry is a dinosaur anyway.

We'd be far better diverting funds into agriculture, science and technologies that do more with less.

Unfortunately, we're in a canundrum because it's really too late to start doing that now.

At any rate, it's not likely that it'll pass.

Cheers!

Aaron

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

I totally agree with Russ and Aaron.  Yes it would be devastating economically, but mining- at least the way it has been carried out in the past- is amongst the most short-sighted business plans conceivable.  There are times when it almost makes sense, but too often it is done with total disregard for externalities and sound knowledge on when to stop.

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

So you guy's opinion is this is a good thing ?  Sorry, my first impression is, there goes the value of the few mining stocks I own, but I see your larger picture about the environment, which I agree with.

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

Hey Scott,

I don't think of it in terms of a good thing or a bad thing because I have literally no connection to mining in any way.

But far too often we look at things in terms of "profits" instead of "impacts".
I'm one of the more "conservative" members around here, and maybe it's my generation, but I would rather leave my children a better world than more wealth. Wealth is transitory and fleeting.

If we overproduce and fritter away our resources, the long term effects will be wealth destruction on a global level.
Essentially, a return to the "dark ages" until someone finds the next "Oil" to revitalize our fragile systems.

At this point in time, I think what we need is a "time out". A few years to just stop - get re-aquainted with a more "primitive" way of life, and get people used to that. Start initiatives building community agriculture and sustainability. Fostering the non commercial "green" practices, like composting, alternative energy and teaching children these skills.

If we take that approach, we will mitigate the long term inevitability of an all-out, global, systemic collapse as resources and space become premium.

The alternative might be less desirable in the short term, but in the long term, we are walking into a burning building, and barricading the door behind us.

Cheers!

Aaron

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

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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?
RussB wrote:

The 1872 Mining Law is one of the most evil in the history of the country. It explicitly enshrines mining as the "highest use of the land" and has enabled this criminal industry, really just a gang of thugs, to

-

In addition, through the process of "patenting", they can claim public land on the vague allegation of an intention to mine it, fence it off to the public, pay pennies on the market value dollar to actually receive private title to the land, de jure privatization, and then simply sell it to developers to build condos or whatever, seeing profit ratios of 100:1 or more.

Many of the corporations who have benefitted from this rape of the American public are foreign.

Even by George Bush standards this privatize-profits socialize-costs regime is outrageous.

The 1872 Law (and its 1866 counterpart) are odious relics which should have been wiped away long ago. They're not fit for the 20th century, let alone the 21st. But the mining industry, perhaps the most selfish, greedy, and criminal of all special interests, can still buy enough western legislators, who engage in enough logrolling, that each time someone like Rahall tries to bury this fossil, it gets dug back up again.

I'm glad he's trying yet again.

 

Russ,

 

With all due respect - you have no clue what you are talking about.

stake exclusive claims to large swathes of public property, for a mere pittance of a leasing fee,

The only "claim" that can staked is the right to minerals if there are any. It takes exploration(thats time, money and effort)  to find it.

 

- deny the public any further access to its own property,

Absolutely Wrong. A mining claim only gives the right to collect minerals. It does not give the claim staker the right to exclude others from the area. You can hike, hunt, fish , picnic or do any other thing you want on that  land so long as you don't take the minerals.

 

- destroy the public land to extract public property minerals, for which they pay nothing in royalties,

Todays miner and mining is completely different from the mining that occurred during the 19th century. Any significant disturbance must be mitigated. All of the details of the mining operation have to be detailed in an approved  comprehensive Plan of Operations.

 

 

- disregard all air and water laws, as they freely ravage and poison everything, all public property, in sight, 

 

when they're finished, they can walk away from the devastated public property scot free, leaving the clean-up for the taxpayers,

- burdened only with lugging all the profit.

 

This is total BS. Miners must follow the same laws and even more than other Forest or BLM land users.

In addition, through the process of "patenting", they can claim public land on the vague allegation of an intention to mine it, fence it off to the public, pay pennies on the market value dollar to actually receive private title to the land, de jure privatization, and then simply sell it to developers to build condos or whatever, seeing profit ratios of 100:1 or more.

Patenting (i.e. ownership) of claimed land has not been available for DECADES. A mining claim must be "renewed" every year with the payment of additional fees and description of work done.

 

Unfortunately too many people believe some of these lies that have been promulgated by these enviro terrorists.

-

 

 

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

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?! 

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

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.  While neither RussB nor kenc is 100% correct, RussB is functionally a lot closer to the truth.

While it is true that a mining claim must be filed, along with periodic plans of operation, and a deposit must be paid for cleanup, in fact the agency has very little power to require more than the most minimal protections, and even less power in enforcing them once assigned.  Deposits are generally miniscule in the scope of any reasonable cost of cleanup, and the miners generally walk away and default on them, considering it a cost of doing business, and a minor one at that.

There are virtually no penalties for the most egregious violations of permit standards or of legal statutes such as the Clean Water Act.

The reason so little can be done to enforce environmental measures or cleanup is, as was pointed out, the 1872 law.  It gives the agency very little power to do more than rubber-stamp the application.

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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.

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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?
PlicketyCat wrote:

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?! 

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

 

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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.

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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?
kenc wrote:

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.

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.

kenc wrote:

There are two types of mining claims Lode and Placer. (etc., definitions from BLM)

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.

kenc wrote:

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.

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.

kenc wrote:

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.

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.

kenc wrote:

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

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.

kenc wrote:

We need less government not more government

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.

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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

 

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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.

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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?
green_achers wrote:

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

 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.

 

green_achers wrote:

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

"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.

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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:

green_achers wrote:

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. 

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.

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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."

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Ken C
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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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green_achers
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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?

ken,

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."

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Ken C
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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?
green_achers wrote:

ken,

 

Point # 2, again here I don't think you're being completely straight with us.

 

Green achers

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"

Ken

 

 

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green_achers
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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?

ken,

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?

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carbonates
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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?

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.

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Full Moon
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Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?

 

     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 .

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fandango
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Posts: 53
Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill 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

Lisa

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green_achers
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Posts: 205
Re: Nasty! H.R. 699 bill to "end all mining" ?

Carb:

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?

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