Eastern Oregon Mining Association
Eastern Oregon Mining Association
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- Eastern Oregon Mining Association
- 20171015

Volume 337

Meetings are held on the first Friday of the month. The next meeting will be Friday, OCTOBER 6th, 2017 at the Baker City Hall. The building is located at 1st and Auburn Streets in Baker City. The Board meeting starts at 6:00 PM. The general meeting starts at 6:30 PM.
Everyone is welcome to attend these meetings. There is time for discussing mining and getting to know other miners. As usual there will be a drawing for a $50 silver medallion at the meeting!

Cooler nights, and shorter days, both mean our mining season will soon be coming to a close. I have some reclamation to complete on one of our claims, then I will begin the process of getting my bond money released by the Forest Service. As an optimistic miner, I am sure it will be an easy process.

But seriously, it should not be so difficult for miners to work on the National Forest. The local BLM office works with, not against the miners. BLM accepts EOMA third party bonding of operators, they authorize Notices to use mechanized equipment within 30 days of submittal, they return phone calls, respect the agency's obligation to provide copies of correspondence to agents. Access on BLM is usually not the nightmare it is when dealing with the Forest Service.

EOMA has been working with American Exploration & Mining, and Mike Doran, retired Federally Certified Mineral Examiner Geologist, on ways to help miners mine, particularly on the National Forest. There is logic in not involving Congressional action right now to dissolve the Forest Service minerals program completely, but the 36CFR228 regulations are not laws, and the Trump administration has asked for streamlining of regulations, and getting rid of duplicate regulations.
This is our opportunity to help both Ryan Zinke and Sonny Perdue understand how the regulations can be modified to help miners mine.
FOREST SERVICE, USDA REGULATORY REFORM INITIATIVES-excerpts from Mike Doran's talk to the Arizona Mining Association.

Revamp the Forest Service performance appraisal system. If meeting minerals program objectives was part of every line officer's "report card", it may at least play to the ranger's "what's-in-it-for-me" need.

Repeal, Replace or Modify Regulations – The 36 228 Subpart A regulations should be modified to incorporate the BLM’s 5 acre Notice Rule.

Focused Analysis – Stop reinventing the wheel every time NEPA is done. If a past EIS has
addressed the same resource issues for a similar project, use the previous analysis.

Develop mandatory timeframes for each step in the NEPA process. Set maximum time-limits for all NEPA analyses.

User-Friendly Planning - If they don’t participate in the planning process, they don’t get to comment or litigate. EPA is a good example. Rather than being a part of the solution, they prefer to be a part of the problem.

Revise the BLM manual, regulations and issue strong direction letter from the Secretary of Interior.

Being Good Neighbors –The Mining Industry is also a “neighbor” and a “stakeholder”, but they are often not treated as such. Vague “needs” do not trump statutory rights. Timeframes should be set for the analysis. If the BLM process exceeds the time limit, the company should be compensated for the delay.

The BLM can build trust by following their own regulations.

Industry should have the right to bring in third party experts to challenge resource issues raised by the BLM, and others, to be considered in the NEPA process. Too often, BLM specialists list a “grab bag” of resource issues with little justification.

Reducing Litigation – Legal challenges to NEPA documents and decisions are almost always related to specific resource issues. For example, just because a plant or animal might inhabit the proposed area of disturbance does not mean it should be considered in the NEPA analysis. Just because Big Horn Sheep lived in the area 1,000 years ago, does not mean they should be seriously analyzed in the EA/EIS.

“Right-size” Environmental Analysis – By only addressing legitimate resource issues.
American Exploration & Mining recently wrote the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior concerning needed changes in the Forest Service mining regulations. The USFS plays a critical role in the administration of the Mining Law of 1872. As such, the guaranteed access to public lands for mineral exploration is a right that must be preserved and left as unencumbered as possible. This right is recognized by the USFS Organic Act of 1897. Our comments also are widely focused on areas that can be achieved without congressional action and meeting the intent of Presidential Executive Order (E.O.) 13777.
Some of their points follow:

Five (5) Acre or Less Disturbance Exemption
Of particular importance is the concept of a bonded exploration notice. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council published a study on the effectiveness of environmental regulation of hardrock mining on federal land. Only two recommendation remain unfulfilled; Good Samaritan legislation and for the USFS to adopt BLM’s 5 acre NOI process. The Forest Service needs to implement this repeal and replace in the regulations NOW.

Update Categorical Exclusion Provisions
Update National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Categorical Exclusion (CATEX) provisions to include exploration or other mining operations fitting within the BLM NOI scope. In addition, remove the 1 year limit on exploration projects that have been granted a CATEX.

Consolidation of Mineral Programs
Evaluate merging of the BLM and USFS mineral programs to eliminate duplication of efforts and excessive overhead. Currently, an exploration and mine project commonly will fall on public lands administered by multiple federal agencies. While the governing Mining Law applies to all public lands, the regulations are often very different. This leads to confusion, delay and loss of investment. A single agency administering mineral exploration development and production in the US would save the mining company and the taxpayer significant money and bring desperately needed efficiency and certainty to the investors looking to create jobs.

I see the logic of not involving Congressional action immediately, but I firmly believe the Forest Service is not capable of administering the minerals resources. In the future, I believe the 36CFR228 A regulations need to be repealed and the 43CFR3809 and 3715 BLM regulations be adopted.

If District Rangers' Performance standards included minerals program objectives, including timeframes for approving Plans of Operation, these line officers might pay some attention to their minerals programs. This could help miners in the interim, but in the end, with BLM administering all mineral exploration, development and production in the US, the result would be a much more efficient program. There would be only one set of regulations, administered by an agency that understands the National Minerals Policy Act, which dictates that the federal agencies will facilitate the orderly development of the minerals resources.

Miners out there on the Public Lands have been at odds with the Forest Service for a lot of years, and way back when, with BLM also. This got so bad years ago that miners developed what they call the Forest Service muffler.

It goes like this; the Forest Minerals person drives up, gets out and tells the miner he needs to be doing a lot of things that are not in his approved Plan of Operation. The miner is polite as he pulls out his handy Forest Service Muffler, also known as a battery-operated tape recorder, and asks the Minerals Person to please repeat his request…………………. silence. Ask him again to repeat what he wants you to do outside of your POO……. Again silence. And that my friends and fellow miners is how such a simple device got its name.

Years ago, Thom Seal, a fellow miner and Vice President of the EOMA, got a notice from the Forest Service that they were contesting his occupancy of his mine out of Prairie City. They said they wanted to meet with him at a certain time at his cabin at the mine site. Thom contacted me, and told me the date and time, and asked me to be there in his support. I showed up before the Forest Service did, and set a tape recorder, the good old Forest Service Muffler, on the table, put in a tape and sat back with a cup of coffee and we visited and waited for them to show up.

Show up they did, about four or five of them, if my memory serves me right. They all came in and sat down at the table and stared at the tape recorder. I turned it on and stated my name and that I represented the EOMA and gave the date and the meeting agenda and asked the Forest Service employees to please identify themselves and their job position. I pointed to the first one on my right…silence, pointed to the second one asking him to identify himself….silence. And so it went around the table until it got to Thom Seal who introduced himself. I then asked the Forest Service personnel if any of them would like to say anything…….silence. Meeting adjourned, see ya…..
Actually happened, true case story, well as near as I can remember…..

The Forest Service here flatly refuses to coordinate with Baker County. The Forest continues to close roads, many in mineralized areas. Bill Harvey, Baker County Chair, is pursuing RS2477 roads across the BLM and National Forest lands. BLM has complied with Baker County's request to remove "closed road" signs in the Virtue Flat area. When approached about the need to reopen RS2477 roads on the National Forest, the Forest Service has apparently said, "sue us".

There was a recent situation where the FS required the miner (who had sold the claim) to reclaim the mine access road. The new claim owner would not have had access. The POO clearly included this road as access, the maps showed the road, 12 years ago it was on all the Forest maps, today they don’t want to recognize it.  The threat to this prior claim owner/operator was that he would not get his bond back until the reclamation of the access road was done, even though the new owner had posted bond. The Forest Service personnel can mislead miners, and often miners want to “get along”, and if they don’t know their rights, will do what the FS says. It is important for miners to realize that demands by the FS do not mean anything unless they are in writing.

The 36CFR228 regulations allow a FS District Ranger to use his or her “discretion” in many instances. The Ranger can require all kinds of not very legal stuff of mine operators by using "discretion". The Wallowa-Whitman ranger, set up an agent designation process himself, but has used his "discretion" to not send copies of letters written to the miners to these agents. He has used his "discretion" on bonding, not only in cancelling the EOMA Forest Service bond agreement, but also in deciding that third party bonds, with EOMA posting bond in the form of cashier’s checks for their members, is not acceptable (BLM frequently uses this type of bonding). He has used his "discretion" on mining files availability to the public, by not allowing even the miner, much less an agent for the miner, to look through their own files.

The word "discretion" does not appear in the BLM regulations. Miners know what to expect when they propose mining on Public Lands.

DEQ has contacted EOMA, along with other mining organizations in this area, to take part in an informational discussion on the 700PM water quality general permit and new restrictions and fees for suction dredge mining established in Senate Bill 3.  Space will be limited, so DEQ is asking that interested miners give their suggestions to Jan Alexander and Chuck Chase for EOMA, Kurtis Kinder for EOMP, Pam and Jim Haney for GPAA/LDMA.

The 700PM permit is a water quality discharge permit for suction dredge and in-water, non-motorized placer mining.
Topics will include:
New requirements established by Senate Bill 3
Next steps for incorporating SB 3 requirements into the 700PM water quality general permit.
This meeting will be held on Monday, October 30 from 1:30pm to 3:30pm in the conference room at the Baker City Library.
If you failed to file your waiver, or pay fees, you have lost your claims. BLM is swamped this time of year processing waivers and affidavits of annual assessment work, but will eventually get around to issuing an abandoned and void letter. Your best course of action is to refile your claims immediately.

You will get a new ORMC number when you refile. Take all information with the old serial number and toss it, or at least place in a "history" file. Too often, I have seen miners use the old number on their waiver, and lose their claims again.

This week, PLF filed this amicus brief in Beach Group Investments, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  This case raises yet another example of how the lower courts are struggling to interpret the Supreme Court’s “final decision ripeness” rule in takings claims.  Because of the confusion, state and local governments often have been able to take the use of private property without ever paying the owner for it.  This violates the protections of the Fifth Amendment.  Hopefully the Supreme Court will clarify and fix the doctrine in the near future, so that when government unconstitutionally takes the use of property away without paying for it, property owners can vindicate their rights in court.

In the back of this newsletter, you will find tickets for a Keene highbanker, which was donated to EOMA by Thomas Adams of LaGrande to be used as a fundraiser. Tickets are one for $1.00 and 6 for $5.00. This is a nice unit, guaranteed to get you the gold!

The drawing for this piece of equipment will be on December 1, 2017 at the EOMA meeting in Baker City. You do not need to be present to win.

These are currently selling for $50.00 apiece plus $5.00 shipping, handling, and insurance. (Prices are subject to change). You can order yours from the EOMA website, and pay by pay-pal. Or, you can send $50 plus $5.00 shipping and handling to EOMA, Medallions, PO Box 932, Baker City, OR 97814, or call 541-523-3285. We sold a lot of coins at Miners Jubilee, and will have them for you to buy at our EOMA meetings.

Eastern Oregon Mining Association now has a Facebook page. For those of you who use Facebook, check it out. For those of you who don't, it may be time to learn!

There is a step by step photo display of a couple of miners who are building trommels. Sign in, and come learn, add your suggestions, and get to know other miners.

There is also a Facebook page for Oregon Mining Association. There is lots of useful information on this site.

It is not hard to become a user of Facebook once you get used to the idea that Facebook “friends” can have a little different meaning than what you may have thought of as “friends” as you were growing up. Facebook certainly gives you the opportunity to share info not found in the mainstream media.