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» Newsletter: January 2005


FIRST QUARTER, JANUARY 2005 VOLUME 19, NUMBER 1

Legal Matters

The Karuk Tribe of California filed a lawsuit in federal court on the 15th of October (2004) against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The purpose of the lawsuit is to stop the USFS from allowing any mining or prospecting activity between the high-water lines of any active waterways within the national forests, unless the USFS first undertakes exhaustive measures to ensure the activity will not create undue surface disturbance.

Because there is ongoing litigation, it is better that I do not comment on it any more than is necessary to help generate support within our own industry. This is a time for all good miners and supporters to pull ourselves together. Links to the legal filings in the case can be found up on the Club’s chat forum. This can be found by clicking here.

The Karuk’s lawsuit was put together and filed by the Western Mining Action Project. This is an organization that is based in Colorado, a long way away from our program in California. It is no secret that this group is a coalition of environmental organizations that have come together for the single purpose of eliminating all mining within the public lands of America.

To know what this law suit is really about, all we have to do is focus on the Causes of Action listed at the end of the Karuk’s complaint. These are the points where the Karuks are asking for relief from the Federal Court. Regardless of all the other things said in their complaint; what the Karuks are really asking for is a determination by the Federal Court that the US Forest Service should not be allowing any prospecting or mining activity (by any individuals or groups) within riparian reserves (within the high-water marks of waterways) on the public lands, unless the miner or prospector has been fully processed through an Operating Plan.

Operating Plans these days are taking up to 5 years or longer for the U.S. Forest Service to process. In fact, they take so long, that a Ranger’s determination to require one (or the Federal Court’s determination that Operating Plans will be required from all in-stream miners) amounts to a de-facto disapproval of any mining plan. Who can afford to wait 5 years for an answer?

The Karuk’s complaint suggests that even a person using a hand-shovel to dig a single sample should not be allowed to do so without an approved Operating Plan. So this is a very important challenge to mining; I believe, the most serious and far-reaching challenge that we have ever faced as an industry.

The lawsuit is about what rises to a “significant surface disturbance,” and who should make that determination. The lawsuit complains that any and every disturbance within riparian reserves is “significant,” and therefore should require exhaustive environmental study before being allowed.

The good side is that the USFS has come out fighting this legal challenge from the start. Their first move has been a Motion to Dismiss the litigation altogether. The USFS is taking a very firm stand defending the way they have historically managed small-scale gold mining projects. This is good for our side.

However, this is a challenge our whole industry must face together. Because all of us will certainly be affected by the outcome.

Our New 49’ers Mining Association is in the process of putting together a Motion to Intervene in the litigation. We have retained and are presently conferring with several attorney-specialists

to assist us. The process is ongoing. I should not comment more specifically than this — other than to let you know we are doing our absolute best to combat this challenge, given the (very) limited financial resources at our disposal.

While there are many reasons to get involved with this litigation, the primary one is that it is the fundamental rights of miners and prospectors that are being challenged by the Karuk Tribe (represented by a conglomerate of large environmental interests). We have no control over how aggressively the government will fight for our rights. So we must be directly involved in the ongoing litigation.

Litigation costs money – especially, as in this case, when it is necessary to hire specialists. We need to hire the best specialists we can afford. We need more than we have already hired! That’s all I can say about this.

In anticipation something like this could happen, our organization began raising money last summer for a legal defense fund. This produced enough of a fund that we have been able to launch ourselves into this litigation. But not enough to see us through it! We are now looking to all active members to help in this effort.

I encourage you to meet with any local mining associations you are aware of, and pull together whatever financial resources you can. Please send them in care of our legal defense fund: The New 49’ers — Legal Fund P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039 (530) 493-2012.

I am also asking all members to please send in $10 or more. Every contribution helps!

If you are not comfortable sending money to our fund, we will be happy to provide the names and addresses of our attorneys, so you can send money directly to them. Whatever works best for you. We will accept help any way we can get it!

The mining law really does support our side in this litigation. And a lot of the claims being made inside the Karuk Complaint are just not true. When (if) we win, we will have some clearly established law on the books that will defend small-scale miners at the federal level a long way through the 21st century. This will put us ahead!

Ever-increasing conservative policies (and laws) being put out by the Bush Administration should also help us win this battle.

But we must all work together. Because we are up against some very substantial environmental interests that are trying to eliminate all mining and prospecting within all waterways on the public lands in this single lawsuit. They are going to throw everything they have at it. So should we!


Terry McClure

Not much has happened yet in the case of Terry McClure. He was cited last summer by (ex)Ranger, Joyce Thompson, for dredging on his mining claim along the lower Salmon River.

For more information about this, please see our September Newsletter.

A Preliminary Hearing is scheduled for mid-January, where the judge will entertain a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that Terry was cited under a regulation that allows no jurisdiction over mining activity on the public lands. The case is very early in its evolution.

Terry is represented by a competent and enthusiastic attorney, and we feel pretty confident that Terry will come out on top when this case comes to an end. I’ll keep you informed.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy holiday and prosperous New Year!

Dave McCracken

General Manager

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