Mining By the Numbers

Did we mention we love numbers?  If we’re going to win this fight we must understand and learn to know the numbers.

We’re going to cover the numbers on Federal mining claims in California.  Not to do a disservice to the other western states but right now our database is loaded with California.  As we expand our data we’ll cover the other states in turn.  There are over 55,000 Federal mining claims in California and claim holders live in every state of the union except for New Hampshire.  (Can we get someone from New Hampshire to file a claim?)  How can the “Live Free or Die” state have no one with a mining claim in California?

Where mining claim owners live – the top ten.

The states with the fewest claim holders are…

Suction dredging attracts a wide range of people from all across the country.  We have some miners with very impressive credentials.  Contrary to what the media and the extreme environmental groups present – we’re not a bad bunch.  There are a number of miners that have PhDs and one is an active professor at a university in California.  We have a large number who hold advanced degrees and a surprisingly larger number who are engineers, lawyers, company owners and other skilled trades.  That’s not saying that any particular degree or group is more important than any other, but rather mining attracts a very diverse crowd and it’s not the stereotype the media and environmental groups like to present.

In talking to suction dredgers we’ve found the majority of us are pro-environment, but anti-environmentalist.  Does that make sense?  What it means, we think, is that most of us actually care about the environment, pick up our trash and the trash of others, we don’t pollute and we’re considerate of our responsibility to be stewards of our land.  We don’t appreciate people who don’t understand the environment pushing an agenda.

The top counties where claim holders live is provided below.

With the exception of Los Angeles county there seems to be a good relationship between counties with a high number of claims and a high number of claim holders.

 If you’re wondering San Francisco County is the 13thmost populous county and has 0 Federal mining claims and only 36 claim holders making it one of the lowest counties for claim holders to live in.  We’ve come a long ways from the gold rush days where San Francisco was the center of activity for gold mining support.

There are twelve counties in California with zero Federal mining claims and eight counties that have less than twenty claims.  This gives you a pretty good idea of where not to go looking to file a claim.

Of course to have a Federal mining claim you must have Federal land and an ability to file a claim.  Likely the association between no claims and the counties is both the lack of claimable land and the lack of gold.  It would be some tough dredging in the Central Valley and we’re not so sure the lettuce growers would appreciate it, so we’ll stay in the high country.

Where claim holders live is often associated close to where they mine, but not always.  Some people travel a long ways to reach their claims – imagine the trip for those miners from Maine.

 The counties where the fewest claim holders live is provided below.   Alpine county is the least populous county in California with a population of 1,175 as of the 2010 census.

Where is the gold?  If you follow the old adage to go where they’ve found gold in the past then the place to go is Sierra County.  Without challenge Sierra County is the gold mining capital of California.  With that being said we should point out that we’re discounting the over 11,000 claims located in San Bernardino county as we’re primarily covering dredging.  Although the huge quantity of mines in San Bernardino County is interesting, we’d sure love to hear from someone who knows more than we do about this area and tell us why there are so many mines (20% of the total in the state) in this one area.

Sierra County in Northern California, with a population of only 3,240 has 3.6% of their population as mining claim holders.  To put that in perspective Sierra County has on a per capita basis four times as many claim holders as the next highest county (Plumas).   There are more mining claims than people in Sierra County with 3,832 active Federal mining claims.  Sierra County is of course home to the Yuba River.

The top ten counties for Federal mining claims are.

 While Plumas, Inyo, and San Bernardino have more claims the percentage of people who hold claims by county still makes Sierra County as the top county for mining.  The numbers by percentage are.

Taken together the top ten counties have over 18,000 mining claims.  This is significant from a political perspective.  First, when miners outnumber residents the impact of mining related economic activity is more significant.  The next time you are out dredging in one of these counties we ask that you make a point to stop and get your lunch, gas, equipment or just buy something from the local businesses.  We all know it’s cheaper to fill up the back of your pickup with supplies from a large city but the cold reality is it’s the cities that have put us out of operation for the past two years.  If you want the rural counties to support mining – support them.  The impact we can all have on the economies of these counties can be significant.  Take your business to the people that are friendly to mining, don’t fund the very same counties that want to run you off the river.  Dollars speak louder than petitions, change your spending habits and let them know you’re a miner.

The numbers are important.  They tell us where the votes are, where the economic impact of mining is and they tell us where mining is most important.  We can use this information as we try to engage in the political process.  As we know the suction dredging ban was passed by people who have no idea what suction dredging is.  While the northern counties are familiar and comfortable with the small dredges dotting the Yuba, the American, the Klamath and the Kern, the southern counties have no idea what suction dredging is.

We need to change that.  If we’re going to win we have to inform the public what dredging really is.  There’s no point educating Sierra County about mining – they know all about it and they support it.  We need to educate the Assembly members who voted against it.  That’s how we win.

The source of the above data is the BLM LR2000 database as of September 2011.



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