After two days of negotiations, California Superior Court Judge Gilbert G. Ochoa has ordered the Mandatory Settlement Conference on the statewide ban on section dredge mining to continue in September. The conference, which was closed to the public, was held June 24-25, 2014 in San Bernardino, California.
Among the plaintiffs and their attorneys on the pro-dredging side were Public Lands for the People, the New 49’ers and the Western Mining Alliance. Representatives for the anti-dredging faction were the Karuk Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the State of California.
PLP Vice-President Walt Wegner said that each attorney met with the Judge privately, and then each plaintiff was given time to speak with Judge Ochoa ‘one-on-one,’ but with their attorneys present in a casual setting in his chambers.
“It was very personal. In my opinion, it was surreal to address the Judge without being in a courtroom. I’m absolutely impressed with this guy. He’s going above and beyond and he is being fair,” Wegner said. “He listened. He heard me.”
At the end of the second day, Judge Ochoa listed numerous points of contention between all parties, and ordered the continuance of the Mandatory Settlement Conference to September 4-5, 2014. In the interim, the parties are to negotiate in an attempt to narrow or eliminate all points of contention between them.
“This is going to be our starting point for negotiating a settlement,” Wegner said. “We got the impression the Judge wants to see us back in the water through the Mandatory Settlement Conference.”
Public Lands for the People, its President Gerald Hobbs, its officers and directors, and its attorney, David Young, will be working hard in the next two months to present to Judge Ochoa in early September, a means and mechanism for ending the ban on suction dredge mining, and allowing the miners to work their claims in an economical and environmentally sound manner.