MINERS FILE PETITION TO CHANGE FEDERAL MINING REGULATIONS

On June 18, 2019, In the wake of the Bohmker case being denied a hearing by the Supreme Court, a coalition spearheaded by the Waldo & Galice Mining Districts, along with nine other mining organizations including PLP, sent a “Petition for Rulemaking to Stop State-Law Based Prohibitions of Mining on Federal Lands” to Secretary of Interior Bernhardt and Secretary of Agriculture Purdue. Read the petition for rulemaking document here.

A more through explanation of how to send a letter in support of this important petition can be found on the Waldo Mining District website.

Submitted by Tom Kitchar of the Waldo Mining District:

In their Petition, the Miners request that the BLM regulations at 43 CFR 3809, and the Forest Service regulations at CFR 228, be amended where the regulations currently allow or authorize states to set unlimited restrictions (above and beyond any federal regulations) on mining on lands of the United States open to mining.

Q:  How can the BLM or FS (lawfully) authorize the states to do something they themselves are barred from doing? 

A:  They can’t… but they did it anyway because guess-who was President.

Amendments to the Mining Law in 1955 gave the United States the right to manage the non-mineral resources on unpatented mining claims providing that:

 “…any use of the surface of any such mining claim by the United States, its permittees or licensees, shall be such as not to endanger or materially interfere with prospecting, mining or processing operations or uses reasonably incident thereto…”     30 U.S.C. 612(b)  (emphasis added)

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the ultimate authority over all lands owned by the United States.  Congress has delegated the authority to manage the public domain lands to a variety of federal agencies, including the Dept. of Interior (and BLM) and the Dept. of Agriculture (and Forest Service), who manage the Public Lands that are open to mining.

However, 30 U.S.C. 612(b) prohibits the federal agencies from endangering or materially interfering with mining on unpatented claims.  This is because on mineralized land, mining is the “best use” and all other uses are at the most equal or secondary to mining (this is why the BLM or USFS cannot “prohibit” mining).

So, in the early 2000’s, the BLM and USFS amended their mining regulations adding language requiring all miners obtain all required state permits… and then went on to say even if those state regulations are more strict than the federal regulations require… with no set limit.

The Rinehart and Bohmker cases were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in part because the BLM and USFS regulations gave the states the authority to restrict mining basically anyway they wanted, and apparently without any federal oversight.  If the state required a permit, all the BLM or USFS cared about was that miner obtained the permit, without really caring about what restrictions were in the permit…

…and thus, California shut down all suction dredge mining statewide in 2009, followed by Oregon’s ban on motorized in-stream mining in most streams in 2017 – and got away with it.  Because of those regulations, and the standing U.S. 9th Circuit decision in Bohmker, until those regulations are amended, the states have carte blanche to regulate or restrict nearly any mining or other use of the federal lands by passing a law (for any reason and without any proof under the guise of “protecting the environment” from an undisclosed harm to ???); even to the point of a prohibition.

Q:  How can the BLM or FS (lawfully) authorize the states to do something they themselves are barred from doing? 

 A:  They can’t… And now we are formally petitioning for change as allowed under 5 U.S.C. § 553(e) to amend the 3809 and 228 regulations adding language that any state restrictions on mining on federal lands that endanger or materially interfere with the mining are automatically preempted by federal law… limiting state authority to reasonable “standards based” restrictions without any prohibitions or moratoriums.

 

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