WMA Feb 2012 Newsletter

February 2012 WMA Newsletter 3.6MB

Unformatted version (without photos):


 News From the Mines

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

CDFG Final SEIR and Regulations Scheduled for Release

The Newsletter

In response to a requirement for an expanded newsletter – our previous four page newsletter wasn’t sufficient, we have switched to a new look with increased coverage of the issues. We’d like to thank everyone who has joined this effort to restore our mining rights but from our lead article you can see the fight has just begun.

We hope you will continue to provide us with the issues that matter to you, but we realize the issue that matters to us all is restoring and maintaing the rights to mine on our Federal mining claims.

February will be a dark month for us as miners – never give in.


Mark Stopher, the program manager for the California Department of Fish and Game dredging program has stated that the final regulations and the final SEIR are projected for release by February 15th, but no later than March 1st. Are you ready?

It’s been almost a year since the draft SEIR and draft regulations were released. We expect some minor revisions around the edges but the core regulations will be a loss to suction dredging in California. We don’tknow what the final regulations will say, but we must be prepared for them.

The final SEIR and regulations will be posted with the changes consolidated and highlighted so you won’t have to go through all 1,388 pages again. You can rapidly check the issues important to you. We believe some things will be better, some worse. If you’re on the Klamath – bad news. If the Yellow Legged Frog closed your claim – bad news.


With the upcoming release of the suction dredging regulations it would appear we are closer to getting back in the water. There are two remaining hurdles; first AB120 requires that “All” significant effects be “fully” mitigated and secondly a fee structure must be in place that covers the entire cost of the program.

What’s that mean to us? Bad news and expect bad news when the regulations are released. First, let’s talk money. A quick bit of math – CDFG has said they would like to hire two wardens to enforce the dredging regulations. Well there are only about 4,000 of us that get permits every year and let’s assume a warden costs $100,000 a year so that’s two wardens salary divided by 4,000 means that the baseline cost of a permit must be at least $500.00. It will likely be higher as we have to cover the entire costs of CDFG running the program.

Significant and Unavoidable. Get used to those terms. These are the words we must fight with all our energy. As we’ve pointed out there is no scientific basis for the findings. If we accept the findings then expect to be “fully mitigated” which in english means fully regulated. We’ll be fully regulated right off the rivers. How do you fully mitigate mercury? With a waste water permit maybe?

Be prepared.


In January we posted the numbers from our database on claim holders in California. You can read this article on Page 3. There are a lot of us, and almost every county and state is represented in the mining community. If we can organize ourselves to fight the SEIR, the laws and the regulations we can win this.

The opposition has succeeded in the past due to the fragmentation of the mining community. We have to change that and we must do it in the next three weeks if we hope to successfully challenge the regulations. We’re on a path to do just that. We ask that you support your clubs, the PLP, businesses and of course us.

The full text of this article is posted on our turn this around we will need miners to engage their website but we thought we would summarize here. If representatives – both Democrat and Republican and you’re looking for new postings on the web site remember to go to “Hot Topics.”

For California (which is the first state we loaded into the database) there are 9,074 Federal mining claim holders. There are claim holders from every state in the union with the exception of New Hampshire. California is by far the state with the most claim holders in California with over 6,000 Federal Claim holders.

San Bernardino County has the most claims in California with over 11,000 mining claims. The graph at the right shows the remaining top ten counties with mining claims, other than San Bernardino.

Sierra County, in northern California has the highest density of miners and claim holders with almost 4% of the county population owning claims.


We ask all miners to strongly protest the SEIR and the regulations. Ensure you respond with a letter. On page 4 we provide a sample of text for you.



We never thought we’d say this, but…we agree with the Center for Biological Diversity. The CBD since 2002 has fought the State of California to protect the Mountain Yellow Legged Frog they have repeatedly stated that the CDFG fish stocking program is responsible for the frogs decline – we agree. There’s a first time for everything we guess.


February will be a crucial month for mining in California. The issues in the final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report will affect the way we mine for many years. We have participated in the process; attended the meetings; wrote our letters and protested at the lack of scientific basis for the regulations. You will have an additional 15 days to protest the regulations. Do it. Your rights are at stake. Write that one last letter and send it in. Strongly protest the regulations as not being based on science or fact. We have provided information on our website to assist you.

We as the Western Mining Alliance need help. We’re going to need everyone’s help to win this.

We need more volunteers. We need researchers; media people; people to write articles and stories; people to assist in grass roots lobbying. We need you to donate your time and talent.

February will be a dark month, but it’s the start of the real fight. If we organize and begin to speak with one voice we will win. Never, never, never quit. This fight is more than mining, it’s about America and what it was meant to be. Stand with us and don’t back down.


After two years, $1.5M and 1,388 pages don’t expect CDFG to say “Yup, we sure got that wrong.” They will stand by the SEIR and the regulations. That leaves us two options: legal and legislative. For either route, we will need everyone’s help. We need votes more than money so don’t think it takes a lot of money to turn it around – it takes commitment.


Sample Issues

The dredging regulations are based on the Subsequent Environmental Impact Review. We’ve spent a lot of hours reading the California Environmental Quality Act and we believe the SEIR was pre-disposed to find negative effects from dredging.

The CEQA process provides an ability to protest and challenge an Environmental Impact Report and that’s just what we must do – why?


Focus on the Significant and Unavoidable Issues. We don’t know for certain what the final issues will be but they provide the foundation for the regulations.


Dredges remove mercury from the river. Dredges do not discharge waste water as they are operating below the mean water line. The mercury data in the SEIR is derived from a flawed experiment that did not use a real dredge.


All studies show that turbidity is localized and returns to background level within 100 meters of the dredge. The SEIR turbidity findings ignore scientific data and rely on conjecture and opinion.

Biological Resources

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 prohibits designating entire geographical areas as critical habitat for endangered species.

The Endangered Species Act further states that specific areas within a geographic area may be designated – not the entire range.

There is no research that indicates suction dredging harms any of the “Action Species.”

Historic and Cultural Resources

CEQA states that the standard to qualify as a historic resource would be qualifying to be placed on the historic register. It is not square mails and trash metal.


Appendix L of the Draft SEIR provides a listing of rivers that are impacted by “Action Species.”

We counted them: there are 136 (at least) rivers in California scheduled for complete closure due to the frogs.

We stand on firm ground in opposition. The Endangered Species Act states that entire geographic areas may not be designated as critical habitat. The SEIR is doing just that. In three counties entire areas above an arbitrary elevation line are closed to dredging forever. Challenge this. Ask for the facts, demand the data.

Please read Appendix L from front to back before you believe we’ve won anything in the new SEIR or regulations. We can’t accept them.

If you don’t protest then you lose your right and standing to fight the SEIR and regulations in the future. The California Administrative Code says you have fifteen days to comment on the regulations. CEQA says you have thirty days to appeal an EIR.

There won’t be time for a lengthy review period. You MUST immediately challenge the regulations and SEIR. We are not going to respond with form letters, they are ignored. We must respond with personal letters in opposition. These letters will not change the regulations or the SEIR so don’t expect them to. They only provide the foundation for a legal challenge.


This month we’re going to take a break from the watershed highlights and cover the process to obtain a Federal mining claim.

It’s not “all claimed up” as you often hear people say. Claims change hands all the time just like real estate.

There are over 55,000 Federal mining claims in California alone. These include placer, lode and mill sites.

A placer claim can be dry or wet although we usually think of this as river claim. All placer means is that it’s gold that has travelled from its source.

Lode claims are “hard rock” claims and these are what we usually think of when we think of mines. Some people have drift mines that while they may tunnel, drill and blast these claims are actually placer claims.

A mill site is separate from the other two and allows a mine to claim ground to process the gravels from the mine.

You can buy a claim, which is the most common way to obtain a claim or you can find an open area and file a claim.

While people will tell you that the possibility of finding an open claim is low, that’s not true.

Claims come open every year for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that the owner fails to file their annual paperwork. This can occur for many reasons sickness, death, gave up or forgot.

Open ground also exists because no one claims it. Some places are closed to mining claims such as land that has been withdrawn for a specific reason. Often land is withdrawn around lakes and reservoirs or for power generation.

The process of finding a claim begins with research. Your first stop is not the Bureau of Land Management database – it’s the US Geological Survey map database. The USGS runs a very good website where you can download all the maps you’ll ever need – for free.

Determine where you want to mine. Ideally gold should be there but you can file a claim for any recoverable mineral (including mercury). The old rule of thumb that you’ll find gold where gold has been found is still true. If you want a good gold claim do the research on where good gold has been found before.

When you locate the general area you would like to have a claim then download the maps you are interested in and spend some time looking over every potential section that may hold gold.

There are a lot of historical resources that can help you determine if good gold has been found in an area. The California Bureau of Mines maintains a significant amount of material on historical reports.

Once you have found the sections you are interested in then go the BLM database and determine if these sections are open to claiming.

The BLM database is not a definitive answer and don’t believe you can claim an area just because BLM does not show a valid claim in the area. You must also look at the BLM Master Plat for the area and ensure the area can be claimed.

Once you believe that an area is open you must physically go to the area and walk the ground. Often BLM will list a claim in a section, or a quadrant of a section when it extends across multiple sections. This is common for claims that don’t conform to the Public Land Survey System.

The ONLY way to find out if it is really claimed is to go to the area and look for claim markers. The claim marker should have a monument which should provide a location notice. The majority of claims do, but some don’t.

If you believe the area is open your are required to make a discovery which means pulling out the gold pan and finding gold. You then are required to mark your corners.

The above requirement precedes filing the claim.

You file the claim in the County Recorders office. Prior to filing we advise you to pull the most recent land records to ensure the County shows the area open to claiming. The County records will always be more accurate than BLM and you will find the County Recorder and the County Tax Assessor to be invaluable resources.

If all is good – file the claim and then file the recorded copy with BLM.

Welcome to the community. Oh, did we mention you are now a property owner so expect a property tax bill in the mail from the county?

Our Usual Closing Statement

We have released our Final Draft Dredging Information sheet for use in grass roots lobbying. We did a limited release to organizations and businesses. If you would like to participate in the final review please e-mail us at [email protected] and we’ll send you one. We intend

Western Mining Alliance PO Box 33218 Reno,NV 89532

on going final by the close of the first week of February.

Also in February we’ll be contacting the clubs and interested miners to coordinate our response to the SEIR and the regulations. We would like to respond with a coordinated effort.

On our web site we’ll be posting our research on mercury – in particular, prior to the 15th we’ll post the bullet points miners can use to respond. The information we post will be referenced and backed by science.

As always we ask you to support someone. Join a club; donate to the PLP get involved.

Our plea for volunteers continues. Over the past month we have picked up a volunteer grass roots lobbying coordinator; we think we’ve got our historian and we’re close to having a lawyer. We still need someone to run the web site; we really need someone to be lead on fundraising; we need someone to organize a “dredging day” on the capital lawn.

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