FIRST QUARTER, MARCH 2016 VOLUME 30, NUMBER 3
Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager
Story by Dicky Melton
Winter is still in full swing here in Happy Camp but you couldn’t tell it today. I’m sitting here drinking a can of soda on the porch of my cabin looking at a seventy degree reading on the thermometer. The daffodils are budding out and some are in full bloom. There are little blue and white flowers popping up, and even the plum tree in my yard is budding.
I hope for the flowers’ sake, we don’t have a late freeze. Be that as it may, even a deep freeze won’t affect my motivation to be out prospecting for gold on the Klamath River. There is something very magical about the pure beauty of gold that triggers internal feelings of exhilaration the moment I see it in my gold pan or trapped in a crack along the bedrock. A good find can even take my breath away and make me speechless for a while. The discovery of raw gold affects most people this way. I suppose that’s why so many of us are out searching for it.
Sometimes I just can hardly believe we still have the freedom to go out on the public lands and keep all the pure wealth we can find! As hard as we are fighting to get some of our freedoms back, I suggest we should take advantage of the blessings we still have.
On the subject of looking for gold during the winter months, just yesterday, I was downriver at the camp of New49er members, Leo and his mom Maria. They have been tent-camping all winter and doing pretty well. Leo was showing me some gold he recovered while scraping shallow material off of bedrock near the water’s edge. Sometimes this practice is called “mossing,” because the rich minerals associated with gold prompt moss to also grow along the edge of the river during the winter and spring months. The moss dies off later as dry weather sets in. But it’s really not about the moss. It is about fine particles of gold, and even some larger golden flakes, that get washed up during the winter storms and become trapped along rough and irregular bedrock surfaces.
There are places along New 49’er properties where we can go back to the very same spots every year and find the same amount of gold has redeposited on the very same bedrock. I know of one place on our Salmon River properties where a single big winter storm can redeposit gold in more abundance than the previous year!
Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always an opportunity to be found if we just look for it. Not using motors to pump water further from the river this year has prompted us to sample closer to the river’s edge. And by golly, we have found good gold deposits that we have, more or less, been overlooking for many years!
I was very encouraged by the amount of gold Leo had in is gold pan, so I captured some video of his workings. Check it out right here:
Leo had been operating a motorized high-banker earlier this winter; but in consideration of the ongoing legal uncertainties, he decided to switch over to processing material with a gold pan and hand sluice. After all, a motor just makes the processing a little easier. Most of the effort and time in prospecting is invested into digging up the pay-dirt. At least in Leo’s situation, switching over to a hand sluice did not make much difference in his gold production. Leo and his mom are clearly having the time of their lives living free out on the Klamath River.
Leo and his mom are not the only ones who have been recovering gold along the edge of the Klamath River. Myself and others have been at it all winter. These pictures just above were provided by New 49’er members Laura Bagley and Scott Coleman. They are enjoying similar results along another part of the river. Laura told me just the other day that they are waiting for the river to drop just a little more before using their boat to cross the river. I gather they have located something very special over there…
Not to give away any secrets, but we do have several New 49’ers out here right now that are hand mining and doing amazingly well. I check in with them regularly and really love to share in their enthusiasm.
The thing is; these types of exposed bedrock gold trapping scenarios exist all up and down the Klamath River, on both sides of the river, above and below water. When you count both sides of the waterways, The New 49’ers make more than 120 miles of waterside gold mining potential available to members. Do you know how long it takes to walk 120 miles? We won’t prospect this much ground in our entire lifetimes!
The key to success is just a matter of sticking to your sample plan until you find something exciting enough to get your emotional juices flowing. As long as you keep on looking, you will find gold and you will also generate some wonderful stories to share around the campfire.
I look forward to seeing you out on the river. Stop by and say hello!
Legal Fund Drawing Results
Here is the Winner List for The New 49’ers Legal Fund drawing held on late Friday afternoon, February 26 2016
1-ounce American Gold Eagle: Elvin Watkins of Walnut Creek, CA
Quarter-ounce American Gold Eagles: Ray Giroux of Montgomery, VT; Jeff Bucher of Lakeside, CA; Gary Fox of San Leandro, CA; Cathy Paap of Oroville, CA
Tenth-ounce American Gold Eagles: Ricky Fuselier of Houston, TX; Justin Nash of Kansas City, KS; The Klamath Falls Prospectors club; Jason Perry of Antioch, CA; Richard Todd of Phoenix, AZ; David Sweet of Henderson, NV; Ted Campbell of Rogue River, OR; Ulas Kirby of Yuba City, CA; John Robbins of Anoka, MN; and Walter Crum of Janul, CA
One-ounce American Silver Eagles: Bruce Greenan of Auburn, CA; Michael Jarrett of Warden, WA; Arthur Smith of Clovis, CA; Paul McCrone of Salinas, CA; Ralph Wiser of Reno, NV; Bruce Greenan of Auburn, CA; Billy Brown of Arch Cape, OR; William Hinkle of San Diego, CA; Gary Nichols of Dallas, TX; and William Ransom of Klamath Falls, OR
John Rose captured the drawing on video:
Congratulations to all our winners and thank you for all of your support. We can consider this another very successful legal fund-raiser. Any contributions received after we closed out Friday’s drawing will generate tickets for the next drawing that will take place on 25 June. As promised, our next drawing will be for the three ounces of beautiful gold nuggets in the image just above, divided into 25 prizes.
We also want to thank our drawing assistant Meranda Rasmussen who works at the Marble Mountain Gift Store in Happy Camp.
The Rinehart case is waiting for a Decision by the California Supreme Court. You may recall that the California Third Appellate Court found unanimously for suction dredgers in Rinehart. This case is all about whether or not federal law prevents the State of California from imposing material interference upon mining or prospecting on the public lands. It is perhaps the most important litigation concerning American mining in our lifetimes.
More recently, the Court has requested further briefing as to how California’s new Water Quality law (SB 637) might affect the Rinehart outcome. There is some degree of hope that we can perhaps bring to the high court’s attention that the new Water Quality law is an expanded attempt by the State to materially interfere with mining on the public lands. I’ll talk about this more down below. Here follow links to both ours and the State’s briefings concerning the new Water Quality Law:
We are involved in several other ongoing legal contests in California (both civil challenges and criminal defense of prospectors). All or most of these have been placed on hold pending the outcome of Rinehart in the California Supreme Court. So it would appear that the rights of small-scale gold miners in California will continue to hang in the balance for a while longer.
A group of mining associations, business, and individuals in Oregon have banded together and hired James Buchal (same attorney who has been representing us and others) to challenge Oregon’s 5-year suction dredge moratorium which is supposed to go into effect in January of 2016. The case is so cut and dry on the basis of established federal law, the miners have asked the federal court for an expedited summary judgment in hopes of saving their 2016 season. You can find the legal arguments here.
How California’s New Water Quality Law will Affect our 2016 Season
Basically, California’s new Water Quality Law redefines “suction dredging” as “the use of a mechanized or motorized system for removing or assisting in the removal of, or the processing of, material from the bed, bank, or channel of a river, stream, or lake in order to recover minerals,” which does not include nonnotarized recreational mining activities, including panning for gold.”
While we have yet to see it in writing, local DFW wardens are saying that they have been directed to interpret this to mean that no motorized systems whatsoever will be allowed to assist in the excavation or processing of gold-bearing material within 100 yards of a waterway unless the prospector possesses a suction dredging permit – which is not available. The wardens are saying that gold panning and non-motorized sluicing will be allowed.
Without going into our legal strategy, I will say that we believe this new law far exceeds the State’s authority over mining on the public lands. We will certainly challenge it. Imagine the State deciding you are in violation of water quality laws just because you, as a prospector, possess a mechanical device within 100 yards of a waterway – even if there is no impact on water quality? A device, by the way, that any non-prospector could bring to the very same location with no legal repercussions? If this is not a clear intention by the State to impose a material interference upon mining, I don’t know what is!
The way the water quality laws are enforced upon everyone else in California is based upon actual impacts to water quality. Federal mining laws clearly allow prospectors priority use of our mining claims. Now the State is telling us we cannot possess any mechanical devices on our mining claims even if we are not creating any water quality impact? I don’t think so!
Having said that, the only place I believe this is going to be resolved is in the courts. I get occasional emails from supporters who believe we should organize a huge motorized gold mining rally as a show of civil disobedience. That’s not a far cry from the stand that a bunch of ranchers took in Burns Oregon this winter. In the end, one of the organizers was shot dead by police, and most of the others are being criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. All or most of their lives are ruined because they made a stand for what they believe in. I don’t want to lead supporters in that direction.
While we are not going to organize a protest, we are also not going to accept or enforce what we believe to be totally illegal laws the State has enacted in violation of Congress. The Siskiyou Superior Court has already Ruled that it will not entertain any further criminal prosecutions of suction dredgers until Rinehart is Ruled upon by the California Supreme Court. Therefore, I would not be surprised if some members decide to use motors in their prospecting programs this coming season. It is likely that the Legal Fund would be prepared to help defend any prospector who is being prosecuted over laws which we do not believe are legal.
I have been in this business nearly my whole adult life. One thing I am sure of is that most people are hoping to enjoy hassle-free prospecting and leave the legal battles in the courtrooms far away from the quiet, peaceful, wondrous, almost religious moments Mother Nature is willing to share with us. Therefore, our operating strategy for the coming season will be in harmony with Dicky’s story above. We will make the best out of the freedoms available to us today while continuing to challenge unlawful State actions in court. We are not going to make it personal or uncomfortable with local wardens who are only doing what they are directed to do. Based upon past experience, my best guess is that they will be polite and respectful if you encounter them on the river.
Because of the earlier Rulings in our favor, I believe we have a reasonable chance of winning our battles in court. And it may not take much longer since the California Supreme Court has requested additional briefing.
At the same time, we continue to make an effort to obtain water quality permits from the State of California. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the State is going to make the process difficult and expensive. Ultimately, I believe this is going to come out in our favor.
Since wardens are informing prospectors using non-motorized methods are not going to be hassled, it is non-motorized methods that we will be doing in our group mining projects this coming season. I suggest you do not underestimate what can be accomplished without a motor. If you are not familiar with these methods, I encourage you to attend our weekend events.
2016 Weekend Group Prospecting Programs
All weekend events are free to Full & Associate Members
Schedule of Events: June 4 & 5; June 25 & 26; July 16 & 17; August 6 & 7; August 27 & 28
The New 49’ers provide all of the sluicing equipment and boats used in these projects. You will need to have your own basic digging tools, gold pan (available in the prospecting shop in Happy Camp) and transportation. You will also need to provide your own lodging and nourishment.
Group projects are limited to a certain number of participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific weekend project: 530 493-2012.
Updating the Billing System in our Offices
We have hired a specialist to resolve problems with our monthly and annual billing system. The first round of changes was made before we printed the February billing. The only way to know if we have everything the way it belongs is to get feedback from members. If your billing seems incorrect, please don’t hesitate to call Bonnie or Music in our office: 530 493-2012.
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The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012 www.goldgold.com