Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Update on Mechanized Mining Regulation by the States

Dave McCracken, President of The New 49er's prospecting organization of California, recently sent out an update on the matter of the legality of the states regulating mechanized mining operations on federal lands.  The gist of the matter is that the states do not have the lawful authority to do so and that the apparent authority under which they purport to do so was unlawfully granted by the U. S. Forest Service and the BLM.  Here is the text of the email from Dave:

After careful review of the court documents from the Rinehart and Bohmker cases, we realized that the BLM and USFS (Forest Service) mining regulations had been amended in the early 2000’s, basically allowing the States authority over mining on federal lands in excess of authority which the BLM or USFS is allowed by law!

On June 18, 2019, we sent a formal Petition to the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, asking for the federal regulations to be changed.

About the time we recognized the problem in the federal mining regulations, we were contacted by a fairly high official within the Department of Interior (DOI) who had seen all the letters we sent in from our previous Action Alert. They wanted more information. After reviewing the materials, they wanted to help! We were told that they (DOI) wished they had known about the Bohmker case six months ago. We believe they would have submitted an amicus brief on our behalf defending mining to the Supreme Court. This would have greatly increased our chances of a hearing… and winning.

This raises an important Question: If the BLM & USFS are prohibited from endangering or materially interfering with mining, how can those very same agencies provide the States with authority to do what the federal agencies are barred from doing in the first place?

The good news is that we finally have gotten the attention of top officials in the Trump Administration!

We do not need the courts or congress at this time. We need the Trump administration to develop a federal Rule making to enforce federal law which is already on the books.

The Petition was submitted two weeks ago along with the support of eleven major mining associations including The New 49ers.  In addition, there are letters of support from several county governments that have sustained serious economic harm because of the misguided policies against mining by some State agencies.

The Petition has landed home where it needs to be. It is being taken seriously. Now, if we can please just take it to the next step: We need to encourage supportive messages from as many people as possible. This is the moment of truth! Notwithstanding any other opportunities that could arise in the future, this is, to a large extent, our last opportunity in the foreseeable future to regain the use of our mechanized equipment and gold dredges.

You can find everything you need to work with in our July newsletter right here:


After 10+ years of battling with State agencies over exploring the federal lands for highly valuable mineral deposits on the public lands, we have finally arrived at the place where we may turn the whole problem around. This might be the closest we have ever been! Now we need you guys and gals to please step up and send in messages in support of our side.

Thank you for whatever you can do!

Fingers crossed,

Dave McCracken, President

The New 49er's, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039, USA

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

"Land Matters" - A Website With Tons of Interactive Maps

It's almost time to head for the hills in search of gold and other minerals and a new website called Land Matters is in the process of assembling links to a large and comprehensive collection of map resources.  Many of these will be of interest to prospectors and small-scale miners as they plan their outdoor adventures.

Among the currently available interactive maps on the site are the following:

Land Status Maps:

Users may choose a base map to add to the plain United States Map (World Street Map, Topo, or Aerial Photos) and then display land ownership and status by BLM, National Forest, National Parks, Wilderness, State, Master Title Plats and Supplements, the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), and Special Surveys.  Zooming in to a local area of interest works best before displaying the land status and other features.

Topo Map Downloads:

This section of the website shows all the available USGS topo maps in the selected area.  The current digital maps are available as are older historical scanned maps.  Clicking on a map of interest on the base map opens a window with links to download the map.  In the case of historical maps, the download link will bring up a list of available maps.  On working with this feature I noticed that not as many old maps are available as on the USGS topoView site but I expect the selection to improve as work on this resource continues.  Also available for download in this section are Forest Service Topo Maps and Coastal Survey Topo Maps.

Mining Claims Maps:

One section of particular interest to miners is the one showing mining claim locations.  Here users may display the locations of current mining claims drawn from the BLM's LR2000 system and download the BLM Serial Register Reports for any they choose.  They can also display the locations of old mines on the base map.  Also available here are the USGS Mineral Resource Data System (MRDS) reports on individual mines and claims as well as historical activity reports on individual mines.

Geology Maps:

Another section of special interest to miners is the one containing state geology maps.  These maps show the various rock types by different colors and symbols and detailed information on each is available by clicking on the particular area of the map you are interested in.

New Projects:

As mentioned earlier, this website is a work-in-progress and many exciting features are in the process of being created.  A few of these are maps showing meteorite falls, minerals, agriculture, recreation, and real-time conditions such as weather radar and infrared satellite data.  The developers of this service are also interested in hearing from users about additional types of maps that they would like to see.

So, head on over to the website, check it out (there are detailed instructions for getting the most use out of it), and sign up for their email newsletter to keep informed of the latest features being added.

Happy prospecting!

Monday, February 11, 2019

An Interactive Site for Finding Mines and Claims in the United States

I have recently come across a website that contains a vast amount of information on the locations of mining claims and mines in the United States.  The website is called The Diggings and a link to it is also in the "Prospecting Aids" section of the right-hand sidebar of this blog.

The site provides a number of ways to locate mining properties, including by name of the property, owner, or geographic location.  There is also an interactive map that allows the user a birds-eye view of the mines and claims in any region in the U. S. as well as of properties in some other countries.  Both current and historical mining claims are included and one may sign up for notifications of updates to the database.  How to use all of these features is fully described on the site.

I encourage everyone to check it out and hope you will find it a useful aid in your prospecting research.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bohmker vs Oregon Case Going to Supreme Court? How you can help.

In the latest newsletter from the New 49'ers Prospecting Club is an appeal from Dave McCracken for miners all over the West to send a letter to President Trump urging him to use his influence to have the U. S. Supreme Court hear an appeal of the Bohmker vs Oregon case. This is the case in which the courts of the State of Oregon ruled to prohibit all motorized mining on federal lands within the state.

The New 49'ers have posted a draft copy of a letter which you can download and modify if you wish, and print and mail to President Trump with copies to selected administration officials listed at the bottom of the draft document.

As McCracken points out, this may be the last opportunity for the small-scale mining community to stop state officials from prohibiting certain mining activities on federal lands within their states and thereby win back the rights that we miners have lost.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Approves Prospecting Rules Changes

As reported earlier on this site, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) requested the Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve several proposed changes to the HPA rules governing mineral prospecting, including changes to the work times on the Sultan and Similkameen rivers.

Here is the pertinent part of today's news release from WDFW:

April 24, 2018

Commission OKs mineral prospecting

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has changed the work times for mineral prospecting in and around the Sultan and Similkameen rivers to avoid periods when incubating eggs and young fish are present.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the changes on Friday, April 20....

Until recently, a section of the Sultan River in Snohomish County was open to mineral prospecting using a variety of equipment, including suction dredges, sluices, and high bankers, for more than seven months each year.

That changed in 2016, when a fish-passage project at the City of Everett diversion dam opened an additional 6.3 miles of the river to spawning salmon and steelhead, said Randi Thurston, WDFW habitat protection manager.

"Last year, the department adopted an emergency rule that prohibited the use of certain types of prospecting equipment in that area, except during August," Thurston said. "This year, the commission adopted that new work window as a permanent rule."

The new rule applies to the use of mineral prospecting equipment in the water, Thurston said.

In a separate action, the commission agreed to expand the work window for mineral prospecting on the Similkameen River to include the month of June from Enloe Dam to Palmer Creek in Okanogan County. That decision was based on a new study by WDFW that found no evidence of incubating trout or whitefish eggs there in June, Thurston said.

"Prospectors urged us to conduct the study, and they were right about the results," she said.

Under the new rule, the work window for prospecting on the Similkameen River from Enloe Dam to Palmer Creek will extend from June 1 through Oct. 31.

For more information about mineral prospecting in Washington, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/mining/.

Contact: Mineral prospecting: Randi Thurston, 360-902-2602

Sunday, April 8, 2018

North Central Washington Prospectors Gold and Treasure Show is Next Weekend

My prospecting club is hosting its annual Gold and Treasure show next weekend.  Here are the details:

North Central Washington Prospectors presents its 19th Annual


                         GOLD TREASURE AND MORE SHOW

                                          April 14 & 15

The show will have over 50 vendors that will be selling prospecting and rock hound supplies, metal detectors, jewelry, art, gems & minerals, rocks, gold pay dirt bags, fudge, ATVs, leather goods, thrift store items and MORE.

Truck and cars on display.  Something for everyone!

Metal detecting hunt with paid admission both days, 10 AM.  Coins and metal tags for prizes will be buried on the fairgrounds for this event.  Top prize is a metal detector for both days.

Haystack Hunt for kids ages 2 - 10 both days (coins & toys), 11 AM.

Door and gold raffle prizes each hour.  Large kitchen serving breakfast and lunch items.

The big club gold show raffle will be held on Sunday.  1st prize - $2,000; 2nd prize - Whites MXT All Pro metal detector; 3rd prize - $500; 4th prize - large gold nugget.

Chelan County Fairgrounds in Cashmere, WA.

Saturday, April 14, 9AM - 5PM; Sunday, April 15, 9AM - 4PM.

Cost: $5, children 12 and under free.  Info: (509) 860-1145

Monday, April 2, 2018

Motorized Dredging Not Yet Safe in Washington

In what appears to be a contingency move, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear from WDFW staff regarding "options and possible timeline necessary for rulemaking should the Commission direct the Department to remove motorized prospecting methods from those approved under the Gold and Fish pamphlet."

This presentation is set to be conducted by Randi Thurston, Protection Division Manager and Teresa Scott, Environmental Planner, Habitat Program at the 9:30 am portion of the Saturday, April 14 Commission meeting.

Public input will be heard on this agenda item for those interested in providing same.

The meeting will be held at the Natural Resource Building, 1111 Washington Street SE, Olympia, WA 98501, on the First Floor – Room 172.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Small Changes to the HPA Rules Proposed at Fish and Wildlife Commission Meeting

At the March 17 session of Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Wenatchee, Habitat Program Protection Division Manager Randi Thurston outlined the proposed changes to the HPA rules that affect mining activities in Washington's waters.

One change would be to the authorized work times on the Sultan River in Snohomish County above the City of Everett's dam.  On the grounds that Coho and other fish can now reach the section of the river above the dam, the new permanent rule would change the authorized work times from July 16 — February 28 to August 1 — 31.

Another change involves the work times allowed on the section of the Similkameen River between Enloe Dam and Palmer Creek in Okanogan County.  Last summer, biologists from WDFW determined that the part of the river mentioned above is not suitable for resident trout spawning.  As a result, the authorized work times may move up one month from July 1 to June 1.  According to Ms. Thurston, this change would still protect the Mountain Whitefish that spawn in that reach.

The remaining requested changes are minor administrative ones, including some designed to make the HPA application process easier and clearer.  No specifics were given.

WDFW intends to formally ask the Commission to adopt these revisions to the HPA rules at the April 20 telephone conference call.

Be sure to sign up for email updates from the Miner to stay informed of matters affecting small-scale prospecting and mining in Washington State.  The sign-up box is at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar on this page.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to Hold a Public Hearing on Proposed HPA Rule Changes

At 9:10 AM on Saturday, March 17, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will receive a briefing from Randi Thurston, WDFW Habitat Program Protection Division Manager, on the proposed amendments to the Hydraulic Code (Chapter 220-660 WAC).  Following the briefing, the Commission will hold a hearing during which the public may provide input on these proposed amendments.

For those interested in attending this meeting, it will be held in Wenatchee at the Red Lion Hotel at 1225 N. Wenatchee Avenue in the Wenatchee & Chelan Rooms.

If you are interested in providing input on this matter, please read the procedure to follow here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission set to hear input on Small-Scale Mining

Moving forward with their intent expressed at the January 5 telephone conference, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear input from various panels, including Trout Unlimited, Tribes, and small-scale mineral prospectors at their meeting on Saturday, February 10, 2018.  The Commission will also accept input from the general public and WDFW staff will provide the Commission with a briefing.

The meeting is scheduled for 11:15 A.M. in Room 172 on the first floor of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington Street SE, Olympia.

Those intending to provide information should read the Procedure for Public Testimony.  Each speaker has 3 minutes to present their information.

You can find the entire agenda for the February meeting here.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission Votes To Deny Trout Unlimited Petition

The Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission voted on January 5 to deny the Trout Unlimited petition banning motorized dredging.

Listening to the recording of the meeting, I learned that Jeff Davis of the Habitat Program declared that WDFW would be willing to work with the Ecology Department to coordinate mining regulation in line with the latter's water quality mandate.

Randi Thurston, also with the Habitat Program, reviewed the highlights of the Trout Unlimited petition for the commissioners and stated the WDFW staff's recommendation.

There was also some discussion on the language of the law regarding the definition of small-scale mining and that it should be clarified this summer by the outcome of current court cases.  A few of the commissioners indicated they don't want to wait for the court cases to be resolved before proceeding with this matter.

After the discussion, there was a motion to support the recommendation of the WDFW staff:

I move to deny the Trout Unlimited petition at this time. I request that staff schedule sufficient time at a future Commission meeting to provide an in-depth briefing on the science related to mineral prospecting; potential risks to fish life; avoidance, minimization and compensation options; and policy considerations.  We also request that representatives from Trout Unlimited and the mineral prospecting community be given an opportunity to present at that meeting. The Commission will decide what action to take after the briefing.

The motion carried on a voice vote (I heard no dissent, but the audio was a bit garbled) with the understanding that the intention of the Commission is to solicit general public comment as well as to invite representatives of the mineral prospecting community, various environmental groups, commercial fishermen, tribes, etc to present their views at a designated Commission meeting in the near future.

The entire discussion went on for just under a half-hour.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reinhart Petition Update

I've already posted twice on the Reinhart case that may come before the US Supreme Court (here and here).

Dave McCracken of California's New 49er's prospecting organization has called once again for miners to write to the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and Donald Trump with updated information opposing the Solicitor General's recommendation.  Here is his latest message:

It has come to our attention that The Solicitor General’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court was written by an Obama administration holdover, Assistant Solicitor General, LANE N. MCFADDEN. This is the very same person who briefed the California Supreme Court that States should have the authority to impose regulations upon mining on the federal lands that can be so burdensome; the regulations can be designed to kill mining altogether.

That is where we find ourselves in California and Oregon today – shut down unless we are given an impartial review by the Supreme Court. Mr. McFadden’s more recent brief to the U.S. Supreme Court basically makes the same leftist arguments.

We do not believe the Trump Administration is aware of the position Mr. McFadden has represented on behalf of the Attorney General's Office -- or represents President Trump's intentions.

We still have time to make them aware of it.

Even if these letters do not reach the target on time, bringing the matter to the Trump Team's attention is going to help us a great deal.  A very similar case in Oregon is working its way towards the high court. So the more we can do right now, the better off we are going to be in the end.  The stakes are too high for us to miss any opportunity!

We are requesting as many of you as possible to immediately send a letter to Attorney General, Jeff Sessions with copies to the Trump-appointed Solicitor General and Donald Trump.  Here is a sample letter that you can either copy and paste from or use to draft your own language:


Here is the link to our attorney's letter that we refer to in the letter:


As always, we are asking all of the other mining organizations to develop a concentrated effort in this last big push.

For as long as we have been fighting to recover our mining rights, there has never been a more important time to make our voices heard. Our future, and to a large degree, America's future, hangs in the balance which very well might swing our way if we all make a lot of noise right now!

Thanks for all that you guys do to support our efforts!

Dave McCracken

The New 49'er Legal Fund

The New 49er's, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039, USA

It looks like the anti-miners are attacking on a broad front.  Let's do all we can to save small-scale mining for 2018 and the years to come.