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- Eastern Oregon Mining Association
- 20150409

APRIL 2015 Newsletter
Volume 307

EOMA INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.h2oaccess.com/

The meetings are held on the first Friday of the month. The next meeting is Friday, APRIL 3RD at the Baker City Hall. The building is located at 1st and Auburn Streets in Baker City. The Board meeting starts at 6:00PM, and the general meeting starts at 6:30PM.

The President and Vice-President, along with all other Directors and Board members were reelected. Carmelita Holland was the write in candidate for Secretary, and she agreed to take this job for another term. Thank You Carmelita!

The Forest Service is now requiring miners to close public Forest Service roads as a condition of Operating Plan approval. Talk about change; when I started mining, the Forest Service prohibited miners from closing their access roads to the general public. A recent policy has just been initiated by the Forest Service that requires claim owners to put up thousands of dollars in bond money to guarantee they will permanently close and decommission these public roads. If the miners refuse, they will not be able to get Forest Service approval of their Plans of Operation. We are not talking about new roads, we are talking about roads that have been used for years to access mining claims. Now these roads are being arbitrarily declared to be \closed\ or decommissioned\. Amazingly, the Forest Service now asserts in writing that they can “decommission” a road administratively from their desk without actually doing anything on the ground. These “decommissioned” roads are often used by all kinds of other forest users. The public, of course, gets the impression that the miners are the bad guys for closing these roads. It is a no-win situation for miners. Access is a statutory right for miners. Without roaded access, we cannot mine our private property right in our minerals. I think forcing miners to bond for and close/decommission public roads under duress is unreasonable. EOMA has requested a meeting to talk about this new policy with District Ranger Tomac.
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) training for new miners who have pre-registered, will be held at the Extension Office located at 2600 East Street on April 15-17. The class begins at 8:00AM each day.

The MSHA Annual Refresher, for miners who have already taken the new miner training class, will be held on Saturday, April 18, also at the Extension Office building. The cost of these classes is $20 per person per day. Call Jan Alexander at 541-446-3413 to register.

In the last newsletter, we listed the 10 items the group agreed to accomplish. The Round Table discussion took place on February 4, 2015. After two months, the following is the progress report.
(1) Tom Montoya will look into whether the FS EOMA MOU could be reinstated. No response as of this date.
(2) Steve Flock will look into how miners can determine when their Notices expire. Steve looked this up in the Handbook, talked with the State Office and reported back. There is an article in this newsletter about this topic.
(3) Jeff Tomac will let EOMA know which operations in the NFBR have not been approved. Jeff sent the list and it is in this newsletter.
(4) Lori Wood and Jan Alexander will arrange a time to discuss the brochure. Lori and I have met, we have the brochure that we call Staking a Mining Claim, consolidated into 2 pages. It will soon be available at the County and the Chamber offices.
(5) Tom Montoya and Jeff Tomac will look into whether miners have the right to review their mining files. No response as of this date. See article in this newsletter.
(6) Jeff Tomac will let Ken Alexander know about approval of the Golden Bandit POO. Done.
(7) Jeff Tomac will let Ken Alexander know about his request for an additional settling pond on Old Channel. No response as of this date.
(8) Jeff Tomac will look into a response to Terry Hurd about his request to continue to mine under the existing Golden Angel EA. No response as of this date.
(9) When issues surface between miners and Forest Service and BLM, the Field. Manager/District Manager and District Ranger/Forest Supervisor will be informed and issues will be resolved at that time, if possible. No issues have surfaced with BLM. Many issues have surfaced with the Forest Service. A meeting with Ranger Tomac will be scheduled to try to resolve these issues.
(10) Tom Montoya will try to schedule a law enforcement officer to speak at the April 3 EOMA meeting. Tom is working on this.

I called Steve Flock, BLM Geologist in Baker, to see what a miner had to do to see his/her mining file. According to Steve, all a miner needs to do is give him a call at 541-523-1487 and set up a time to look at the file.

Naturally, with the Forest Service, things are not this easy. The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has a new policy that miners may not view their files. The only way that this would be possible is if the miner were to request that they be able to view their own file under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

What this different approach to allowing a miner to look at his/her file clearly demonstrates, is that BLM is service to the public driven, while the Forest Service is process driven. Ranger Tomac and Forest Supervisor Tom Montoya were going to look into this new policy, since neither appeared to be aware of it at the last Round Table discussion in Baker City. To date, neither has reported back to EOMA.

Jeff Tomac responded to EOMA with a list of the Plans of Operation in the North Fork Burnt River where miners have not responded to the Forest Service concerning approval of their plans. The POOs are as follows:
(1)August, (2)Camp Hale, (3)EJ, (4)EOMP Gold Camp, (5)Gold Busters, (6)Jay Gould
(7)Jim Bob/Sue, (8)Midas Ladybug, (9)R&R#2,#3, (10)Racer, (11)Big Elk,
(12)Silver Eagle, (13)Sluice Box, (14)Snow Creek, (15)Standby/McNamee, (16)Star, (17)Wild Flower, (18)Parkerville, (19)Upper Geiser, (20)Upper Winterville, (21)West Parkerville,
(22)Rocker, (23)Rusty Bucket/Ladder.

The Star is not a separate POO and has been incorporated into the Gold Buster Plan, so this one really is not at issue, but the Gold Buster Plan is still on the list. If your operation is listed above, and you have already contacted the Forest Service, you are doing the right thing. If you havent contacted the Forest Service yet, you must do so or you stand to lose big time. The Forest Service spent over ten years, was involved in one lawsuit, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to get your Plan approved. However, as things change in the watershed, like a new ESA listed species, you will lose the chance to have an approved Plan because the Forest Service will want to do more analysis. If your Plan is already approved, you would be allowed to continue mining with the exception of activities that might impact the species.

I have contacted several of the miners with Plans that are listed above, and they will be contacting the Forest Service. I am hoping the rest of the miners will also contact the Forest Service. If this does not happen soon, I fear that the Plans will end up being cancelled. EOMA fought for your right to mine, worked closely with the Forest Service to resolve issues and appealed all unreasonable stipulations. Now it is up to the miners to get in there and mine.

For those of you who have been able to wade through this document, it is a huge disappointment. Analysis under an Environmental Impact Statement is usually reserved for Land Use Plans and other monster documents where impacts will occur Forestwide on tens of thousands of acres. In contrast, the Granite Creek Watershed Mining Projects DEIS covers only 28 Plans of Operation, with a total of 104 acres analyzed for disturbance in a 94,480 acre watershed. This is a ridiculous waste of the miners time spent waiting over 10-15 years, the Forest Services time \diligently working\, and the taxpayers money spent on FS salaries. On top of this, the Forest Service has decided not to approve one of the 28 operations, leaving only 27, and many of these operations will affect only one acre over ten years. The Forest Service is trying to prohibit miners with legal water rights from using their water as directed by the State. The Forest Service has no authority to restrict water use under legally issued water rights. Waters of the state are controlled by Oregon Water Resources Department, not the Forest Service. The miners maps were not used, and often the miners Plans of Operation are not accurately reflected in the document. One operation is described as \recreational\. If this is actually the case, which I doubt, that operation is not protected by the mining law and should not be included in a mining EIS.

All miners with Plans of Operation in the Granite Creek Watershed will be required to sign the packet of stipulations (See Appendix 2 General Requirements for Plans of Operation Included in Alternative 3). There are pages and pages of stipulations that you must agree to comply with. Some of these are reasonable, but some of them are not reasonable. The following are stipulations I found to be unreasonable, you may find more. All miners need to look these over, and make comments before April 6, 2015. If these stipulations are not changed now, not just Granite watershed miners, but also Upper Power, Lower Powder, North Fork John Day and other watershed miners will be subjected to these also.

G6 is not reasonable and should be deleted. Requiring miners to create new snags, when diseased or dead trees are removed for safety, is unreasonable. Many times the only trees available in the \same area\ are healthy growing trees that should never be killed to make a snag. Once the snag has been created, woodcutters will simply cut it down for firewood. G6 was not a requirement under the North Fork Burnt River Mining EIS and it should not be a requirement under the Granite Watershed Mining Projects EIS.

G20 needs to be clarified. The first part \Extended occupancy (longer than allowed under the Forest Order) must be incidental and necessary for the level of proposed mining...\ needs to be changed to read, \Extended occupancy (longer than allowed under the Forest Order) must be incidental and necessary for the proposed mining...\ If the activity is mining, even with hand tools, the activity comes under the General Mining Law of 1872, as Amended, and Forest Orders do not apply.

The second part of G20, \And authorized in the Plan of Operation\ is also unreasonable and should be dropped. The 36CFR228 regulations do not require that occupancy be approved under a Plan of Operation.

The third part of G20 is also not reasonable and should be dropped, \No person not actively involved in the day to day operations will be authorized to stay longer than allowed under the Forest Order...\ This stipulation requires that all persons must be actively mining to be on site, however this is not true. The General Mining Law, as amended, is the authorizing law as long as occupancy is \reasonably incident\ to the mining operation. A single miner may run an operation, and be involved in the \day to day operations\, while the wife or partner is on site for safety. Forest orders are for recreation activities, the mining laws and the 36 CFR228 regulations have nothing to do with recreation. G20 needs to be rewritten.

G22, \When the operator is contemplating a sale of the claim associated with their Plan of Operations, the claimant/operator shall notify the District Ranger\ is not a requirement under the regulations, is unreasonable, and is completely unenforceable. This sort of information can be provided to the miners in a letter, but it is not appropriate as a stipulation. G22 should be deleted.

G23 should be rewritten; using pumps to recycle process pond water does not require screening.

G24, \At a pre-arranged meeting time and place the Forest Service minerals administrator will inspect all equipment prior to its placement on NFS land in order to make sure that it is in working order, and there are no obvious leaks\ was not well thought out, and is not reasonable. How far would the inspector be willing to drive to inspect the equipment? Many operators are from the west side of Oregon or from other states. How would the inspector make sure the equipment was in \working order\? What happens if a miner is ready to haul equipment in and the mineral administrator is on training or on vacation or is sick or otherwise cant come out? G24 was not a condition of approval in the NFBR Mining Projects EIS and G24 is both unworkable and unreasonable. H8 \All equipment shall be checked for fluid leaks on a daily basis....\ covers the intent of G24 and is reasonable. G24 should be deleted as it is covered under H8.

IS2 needs to be rewritten to include Mining Plans of Operation, since POOs are not permits. In addition, \The Forest Service minerals administrator will inspect all equipment prior to its placement on NFS land to make sure that it has been cleaned for invasive species\ should be deleted. IS2 should be changed to, \All equipment to be operated in the project area shall be cleaned in a manner sufficient to prevent noxious weeds from being carried into the project area. This requirement does not apply to passenger vehicles and other equipment used exclusively on roads. Cleaning of equipment, if needed, will occur off NFS lands. Equipment will be cleaned on-site prior to moving it to another site if the site is known to have noxious weed infestations\. This stipulation was required of miners in the NFBR FEIS and is reasonable.
IS3 is unreasonable, since miners would not be able to conduct ongoing reclamation if every time they were ready to fill their excavations, they would need an opinion from the FS Minerals Administrator. IS3 should be deleted and replaced by the stipulation found in the NFBR FEIS \Prior to its use, any rock sources (e.g. pits and quarries) will be inspected for noxious weeds. Rock source material contaminated with high priority noxious weed propagules will not be utilized\.

IS5, \All noxious weed infestations will be avoided during times of seed production\ is unreasonable and unenforceable. Miners need to be aware of the noxious weed problems on the Forest, but running over a Scotch thistle is unavoidable in a lot of areas. IS5 should be rewritten as follows: \To the extent practicable, all noxious weed infestations will be avoided during times of seed production\.

R1, \Prior to reclamation, the operator will coordinate with the Forest Service on reclamation activities for ....placement of topsoil, use of slash, seed mixes and seeding rates...\ is not reasonable. The Plans of Operation require placer miners to conduct reclamation that is ongoing with the mining operation. Refilling excavations to normal land contours, placing topsoil, and seeding are all included in the Plan and in the attached stipulations. Miners must be able to conduct reclamation activities at the appropriate time and as the need arises. R1 should be changed to \Reclamation should be ongoing to stabilize the area and so that a minimum amount of ground will be open at a given time\. This stipulation is found in the North Fork Burnt River Mining stipulations and this should replace R1.

R4 and R5 should be rewritten. Certified weed free straw is not currently available locally. R4 can have the words \or woody debris mulch\ added or simply delete the requirement for straw. R5 should state, \For topsoil stockpiles, native/desirable non native seed mixes as recommended by the Forest Service botany specialist will be used, or the stockpiles covered with plastic\. This stipulation is found in the North Fork Burnt River Mining stipulations and this should replace R5.

R7 is unreasonable, and should be deleted; it can be absorbed into the revised R5.

R12 is not reasonable in two areas. Mine sites are often harsh sites. Many have no topsoil, they do not have an \A\ horizon and native seed will not germinate. Use of desirable non-native seed mixtures, which are free of noxious weeds and which will germinate quickly to hold the soil and outcompete the weeds should be included in R12.

As stated above, certified weed free straw is not available locally, and the miners should have the choice of using woody debris as mulch.

R13 is reasonable in that newly constructed roads should be reclaimed, however it is not reasonable as to the requirement that certified straw be used, since this is not available.

R16 is not reasonable as it pertains to spreading a thick 3\ mat of straw. Three inches of straw is detrimental to germination. The Forest Service botanist for the Lyman Quarry Project EA stated, \Certified Weed-Free Straw mulch 1/2 inch is recommended on the newly seeded or planted bare soil. The mulch should not be any thicker on seeded areas or germination will be inhibited\.

Thus, if straw is available in the future, it should only be spread 1/2 inch deep. In addition, if straw is not available, the miner should have the option of using woody debris as mulch. R16 should be rewritten \After seeding, the mine operator will distribute certified weed free straw, if available, 1/2 inch thick over approximately two-third of the area in mid to late fall. Woody material, if available, can take the place of straw. Some patchy open areas are acceptable\.

R17 is not reasonable where it requires the miner to consult with the Forest Service before spreading topsoil. If the Plan of Operation requires ongoing reclamation, the miner should be allowed to conduct his mining and reclamation whenever needed, without waiting for the Forest Service to come out and take a look. Delete the part about consulting with the FS.

Z13 is not reasonable as it pertains to a miners gate. If the location is required/approved by the Forest Service, the miner should have the option of constructing the gate of materials located on site, rather than purchasing an expensive powder river gate.

I really am having a hard time figuring out why the Forest Service has proposed new, unreasonable stipulations, when the set of stipulations that they used for the North Fork Burnt River Watershed Mining Projects has passed the \smell test\ of appeals.

Reclamation stipulations should be based on the results obtained on the ground. If the operator is able to achieve appropriate levels of vegetation without straw, this end result should be the goal, not what methods the miner uses to get these results.

G5, about girdling live trees to make snags was proposed in the past and due to public outrage, the Forest Service dropped this stipulation. I am not sure why they are trying to stuff this one down our throats again. G20, about restricting mining occupancy, is not legal under the Mining Law, and the 36 CFR228 regulations do not support this restriction. As far as G24, IS2, IS3, R1,R5, these were worked out in the North Fork Burnt River EIS, during the appeal resolution meetings. G22, about a requirement to call the ranger if you are \contemplating\ selling your claim is unreasonable, not backed by regulation, downright silly and needs to be deleted. I would hate to see anyone put in noncompliance for \contemplating\ a sale.

Comments must be sent to Forest Supervisor Tom Montoya, P.O. Box 907, Baker City, OR 97814 by April 6, 2015. Even if you do not mine in the Granite watershed, the unreasonable stipulations, takings of water rights, and other problems in this EIS will hurt all future mining operations in the Powder, North Fork John Day and other watersheds. If you need help with your comments, call Jan at 541-446-3413.

SURFACE MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK, BLM HANDBOOK Rel. 3-336 09/17/2012 under the heading 3.4.2 Notice Extension, states the following:
\An operator may extend the Notice for an additional 2 years according to 43 CFR 3809.333. The Notice may be extended more than once. Notification-To extend the original Notice, the operator must provide the District/Field Manager with written notice on or before the expiration date, indicating the operator intends to continue operations under the terms of the existing Notice for an additional 2 years. A Notice may not be extended if it has already expired.

Regardless of when the operator provides an extension notification, or when the operator provides the BLM with an acceptable financial guarantee, the Notice expiration date is 2 years from the date the BLM issued a decision, Determination of Required Financial Guarantee Amount (see Appendix A, Template 3.2-3), as to the amount of the required financial guarantee.
If a decision has been issued by the District/Field Manager establishing a revised cost estimate for an entire operation, and the operator requests a Notice extension in compliance with the regulations, the Notice expiration date is the 2-year anniversary date of that decision. Normally this situation would occur when the Notice is modified\.

Steve noted that it appears that a miners extension dates is the date of  the decision the extension is accepted (this would be the case anyway if there is no change in the financial guarantee), not when the financial guarantee is received.  Steve said he checked with Donna Kauffman and it appears that BLM in Oregon does it both ways, but in the Vale District, a miner should use the date of the decision that the notice has been extended. Miners with questions about when their notices need to be extended should contact Steve at 541-523-1487.

WPCF PERMITS-Jan Alexander
The Granite Watershed Mining Projects EIS contains a stipulation requiring miners to obtain and provide a copy of their WPCF permit before a Plan will be approved.

All miners who use water in processing, not just those who use equipment, are required by State law to apply for a Water Pollution Control Facilities permits (WPCF). There is no cost for a permit covering processing of up to 1500 cubic yards per year, and the fee is $273 for a permit covering processing of over 1500 cubic yards, but less than 10,000 cubic yards.
Date: April 2, 2015, Time:8:00 A.M., 900 Court St. NE, Room 347, Salem, Oregon 97301
Phone: 503-986-1556
Email: shelley.raszka@state.or.us
Public Hearing/Work Sessions will be held on the following bills:

HB3089-Requires State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to conduct study on increasing local revenues from mining operations and present report to interim committees of Legislative Assembly related to environment and natural resources on or before September 15, 2016.

HB 3090 Requires State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to conduct study on consolidating permit processes for mining and present report to interim committees of Legislative Assembly related to environment and natural resources on or before September 15, 2016.

HB 3096 Requires State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to conduct study of mineral resource potential in Oregon and present report to Legislative Assembly by February 1 of each odd-numbered year.

HB 3269 Requires State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to conduct study of mineral resource potential in Oregon and present report to Legislative Assembly.

Miners who are willing to give written or oral testimony concerning these bills should contact Shelley Raszka

Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) and Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) will hold a \Legislative Hotline\ (video conference) call once per month during the 2015 Legislative Session, which convened February 2nd. These appearances, hosted by the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, provide Baker County residents an opportunity to discuss with the Representative and Senator legislative events and other statewide and local issues. These video conference meetings will be held at the Baker County OSU Extension Offices media room on the following dates:
• Wednesday, April 1st at 7:00am (PST)
• Wednesday, May 6th at 7:00am (PST)
• Wednesday, June 3rd at 7:00am (PST)
\These meetings will provide the opportunity to review what is happening in Salem with Baker County residents. I hope that those who follow the Oregon Legislature will join the two of us to talk about proposed laws and other legislative actions. We want to know what you think and what you believe should be happening in the Legislature,\ said Rep. Bentz.
Those interested should be at the OSU Extension Office/Baker County Events Center (2600 East St., Baker City) at 7:00 a.m. (PST) on the above dates.

Natural resource industry leaders nationwide shuddered in February 2011 when the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intent to veto the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum-rich Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska – before the developer even had finished its preliminary design. Without warning, the EPA had nullified a half-dozen basic laws and seized power to itself without authority.

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, then the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “It’s unprecedented—even for the EPA—to attempt to shut down a project before the developer has the opportunity to apply for a permit.”

How could this happen in a nation of laws and due process? The secret behind the EPA’s pre-emptive strike against Pebble Limited Partners was a three-pronged cabal–lavishly funded by left-leaning environmental groups–of environmentalist coalitions, anti-mining scientists and anti-mining assessment consultants who were secretly given illegal access to and power over EPA strategy and decision-making, according to the Pebble group’s brief. Big Green’s devastating, years-long anti-Pebble campaign was the second-most-expensive environmentalist assault ever, right behind the ongoing war of climate alarmists against climate skeptics. Green forces assumed Pebble was dead.

However, in November, U.S. District Court Judge Russel Holland responded to Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit with a preliminary injunction against EPA, ordering the agency to stop its attack. Holland’s ruling does not resolve Pebble Limited Partnership’s complaint that EPA pursued an unlawful, biased and predetermined outcome against it, but it does presume the company could prevail on the merits at trial and gives it time to make its case.

Pebble Limited Partners’ all-out counterattack against EPA is highly unusual. Most industries treat regulators with great caution for fear the agency will strike back on subsequent projects.
Pebble CEO Tom Collier told The Daily Signal, “We’re pushing back pretty hard; it’s true. We’re a single-asset company, unlike most under EPA regulation, which have many projects to protect. We’re preparing pointed depositions of some very powerful regulators during the discovery process, something that most could not risk. We will gain access to emails, meeting records and documents that EPA either refused to produce or redacted so completely that all vital information was hidden. The next six months will be interesting times for the EPA and everybody involved.”

“The people of the entire Iliamna area have seen a massive decline of economic activity and the loss of jobs as the EPA worked collusively with special interests to kill the Pebble project. This has left much uncertainty for our hopes to build sustainable economies. We have asked the EPA over and over for a fair and balanced process, but I’m very skeptical about the EPA and its ability to achieve fairness here.”