Monday, August 9, 2010

Chetco River in the news

The Medford Mail Tribune recently editorialized on the need for Congress to reform the 1872 Mining Law and the Associated Press reported on Oregon's new suction dredge mining permit which includes an interesting twist for the Wild and Scenic Chetco and Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

A July 28, 2010 Medford Mail Tribune editorial called for reform of the 1872 Mining Law, using the following local examples of the need for Congress to change the antiquated law; 
  • the proposal to mine 24 miles of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River, 
  • the escalation of suction dredge mining in Oregon, and 
  • the $11.3 million cost to the taxpayer for the cleanup of the Blue Ledge Mining on the Rogue River National Forest.  
Read the full editorial.


On August 3rd, Associated Press reported on the State of Oregon’s issuance of its general permit for suction dredge mining.
By Jeff Barnard | AP Environmental Writer 
The article describes the terms of the permit and specific to the Wild and Scenic Chetco River it states:
The $25 yearly permit includes a long-standing state prohibition against harming water quality in 12 federal wilderness areas established before 1972, including the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, where a Washington real estate developer is trying to create a gold mining resort.
The standard of no turbidity increase would effectively prohibit suction gold dredges from mining in those wilderness areas. Panning for gold is still allowed.
This essentially means that the mining plan submitted by Chetco River Mining and Exploration to mine its Gold #11 claim would not be legal as proposed.  The mining plan submitted in February 2010 calls for using various types of mining equipment including two 6 inch suction dredges (up to 1200 lbs.) and a 4 inch dredge.  The plan also proposes the unprecedented use of helicopters to transport mining personnel to the claim which is deep in one of the most inaccessible parts of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

It also could mean that Gold #11 is no longer valid.  The claim was found valid by the Forest Service in 1986 but the agency failed to take into consideration the limits placed on mining in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness by the long standing Oregon Administrative Rule.

A mining claim in a withdrawn area has to be valid on the date of withdrawal (for the Kalmiopsis Wilderness this was January 1, 1984) and continually afterwards.  More on this issue soon.