The War on Mining

(A brief overview of the role that mining played in building our great nation, and then how the U.S. systematically created laws to crush small scale mining, and the potential small scale mining has in the future of our nation).
Remnants of the Mining Rush across the west.

Remnants of the Mining Rush across the west.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Mines and Mining in today’s media. Unfortunately the majority of this media is completely false. After all, if it wasn’t for mining, there wouldn’t be much of anything here in the West. The railways were built to facilitate the shipments of ores. The roads were built by miners moving in and out of their claims. The “wilderness” trails that we hike and climb were more than likely originally cut by a miner. 90% of the cities and towns in western America have their roots in mining. From Washington to New Mexico, the West was built by mining.

It’s a common misconception that Mining is dead in the U.S. Other common misconceptions are: no one works mines anymore, there are no mines that still have any value, the old time miners took all the gold and minerals, mines are damaging to the environment, mining requires extensive knowledge and training, no one trades in gold or minerals anymore, mining is so complex and difficult that there is no way the average Joe, (with no mining experience), could own or work a mine and finally, mines are extraordinarily dangerous.

All of the above statements are false. Let’s step through the fallacies.

Abandoned mine

Abandoned mine

Mining is dead in America.

False – Mining is still alive in America. While the Forest Service and BLM may try to hide and destroy mines, there are people actively mining on all levels, every day in America. Barrick, Newmont and other mineral exploration and mining companies are among some of the largest and most profitable in the world.

Next on the ladder, the Junior Miners group. These are small companies that are working to become the next large, multi-billion dollar mining giants. Think of Junior Miners groups as the stock market gamblers of the mining world. They look at small mines that have the potential to be built into monster producers. Junior Miners often buy out small, individual miners and then work those mines up to a level that they are producing on a commercial level.

Finally at the base and heart of mining, you have the small miner. This is the person like you or I.  There are thousands of small miners that work the hills to bring in thousands of dollars a week. They don’t require permits, they don’t need government help. They just go up to their claim and break the precious minerals out. These miners are the ones who really built America. Large companies and Corporations may come in and usually buy these small miners out for ungodly sums of money, but it all starts with the little guy.

No one is working Mines anymore.

Mine Diagram

Mine diagram

False – Everyday in America today, there are men and women working their mines on a daily basis. These people depend on their mines for sustenance. They are panning, picking and crushing the valuable minerals in their mines.

You usually don’t hear much about these people, as they are very solitary and private people. They work hard and do not want people to infringe on what they are doing. They also usually have an ear to the ground to find other mines that have produced in the past. Their livelihood hinges on their discretion and ability to keep their mine secure. Ask around in your neighborhood, chances are that in an average cross-section of people, 1 in 50 is involved in mining of some sort.

No mines have any minerals left, they are all worked out.

False – This is the biggest myth that is pushed on people. In fact, many mines have many millions of dollars in reserves (reserves are minerals left in place) just waiting to be extracted. So why did the miners just abandon gold, platinum, silver and other metals? Our own federal government took away their mines. Here is a brief history lesson:

In 1933, President Roosevelt took the first of many steps to outlaw gold mining. He signed Executive Order 6102, making it illegal to hold any gold or gold certificates. All gold bullion had to be turned in to the Federal Reserve, or the individual could face up to a 10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. This order was not repealed until 1975. So gold miners were at a conundrum, if they had gold that was being mined, but not immediately surrendered to the Federal Reserve, they risked a fine that would bankrupt a small miner and prison time. Many gold mines closed up after this act, holding on to the claims, but not working them, waiting until this law would be appealed.

In 1941, L-208 was issued by the War Production Board under President Roosevelt. It is recorded as follows:

FDR signs anti-mining bills

FDR signs anti-mining bills

“In the interest of national defense, the War Production Board, in 1942, issued its Limitation Order L—208 ordering nonessential gold mines to close down.

Early in 1941, it became apparent to those in charge of the Nation’s defense mobilization that we faced a critical shortage of nonferrous metals, notably copper, and a comparable shortage of machinery and supplies to produce them. Responsive to this situation, the Office of Production Management (OPM) and its successor, the War Production Board (WPB), issued a series of Preference Orders. These gave the producers of mining machinery and supplies relatively high priorities for the acquisition of needed materials. They also gave to those mines, which were deemed important from the standpoint of defense or essential civilian needs, a high priority in the acquisition of such machinery. Gold mines were classified as nonessential and eventually were relegated to the lowest priority rating. These orders prevented the respondents from acquiring new machinery or supplies, so that by March of 1942, respondents were reduced to using only the machinery and supplies which they had on hand.

Soon thereafter, a severe shortage of skilled labor developed in the nonferrous metal mines. This was due in part to the expanding need for nonferrous metals, and in part to a depletion of mining manpower as a result of the military draft and the attraction of higher wages paid by other industries. It became apparent that the only reservoir of skilled mining labor was that which remained in the gold mines. Pressure was brought to bear on the WPB to close down the gold mines with the expectation that many gold miners would thus be attracted to the nonferrous mines.

As a part of this conservation program, WPB, on October 8, 1942, issued Limitation Order L—208 now before us. That order was addressed exclusively to the gold mining industry which it classified as nonessential. It directed each operator of a gold mine to take steps immediately to close down its operations and, after seven days, not to acquire, use or consume any material or equipment in development work. The order directed that, within 60 days, all operations should cease, excepting only the minimum activity necessary to maintain mine buildings, machinery and equipment, and to keep the workings safe and accessible. Applications to the WPB were permitted to meet special needs and several exceptions were made under that authority. Small mines were defined and exempted from the order. The WPB did not take physical possession of the gold mines. It did not require the mine owners to dispose of any of their machinery or equipment.

On November 19, 1942, Order L—208 was amended to prohibit the disposition of certain types of machinery or supplies without the permission of an officer of the WPB. Each mine operator was required to submit an itemized list of all such equipment held in inventory and to indicate which items he would be willing to sell or rent. On August 31, 1943, L—208 was further amended to permit disposition of equipment, without approval of the WPB, to persons holding certain preference rating”

So in a nutshell, the federal government just shut down your mine, and to add insult to injury, made it mandatory to disclose all items in use at your mine, and finally gave preferred personnel the legal right to seize your property at any time for use in the war effort.

This act along with the few acts preceding it, made it known that gold mining was not going to be tolerated in the United States. As a result, many, many mines were closed, back-filled by claim owners, or completely abandoned.

As the years rolled on, many claimants tried to hold on to their claims. They paid their annual assessments year after year, but bit by bit, more mines lapsed, collapsed or were simply forgotten about.

It wasn’t just the people who were taking a beating. The US Bureau of Mines, once an active group in monitoring active mines both large and small, was severely hampered by budget cuts and constraints. Instead of actively examining mines on site, the Bureau of Mines just began regurgitating documents. College students that needed credits were sent out to mining sites to report on status. These status reports could not have been more jaded or completely incorrect in a lot of cases. By 1994, The Bureau of Mines was disbanded and its small groups were absorbed into other federal agencies, such as the EPA. Talk about a conflict of interest!

Nixon gives his famous speech removing the gold standard.

Nixon gives his famous speech removing the gold standard.

In 1971, the Gold Standard, the standard that matched every dollar to an equal amount of gold, was removed. The US was printing money; Gold was $35 per ounce. In 1972, the devalued dollar pushed gold to $38 per ounce. In 1973, after another round of printing, the dollar lost value again and gold rose to $42.22 per ounce. But still there was very little mining being done. In 1976 the Gold Hoarding bill as it was known, was repealed and a few more people got back into mining. Some re-opened gold mines that had been held in their family, some prospected for what people left behind.

In 1980, among many international crises, the price of gold skyrocketed to $900.00 per ounce. Suddenly people were again out in the hills, looking for old mines and finding a surprising amount of gold on public land. But the spike was short lived, and by 1981, the price was back down around $300.00. Still, not a bad price for an ounce of rock. There are still some claims located in the 1980s that are still privately held. Barrick Gold Mines came online in 1985 and is one of the largest gold producers in the world, posting profits in the billions of dollars each year.

However, by the early 1980s, mining had become a dirty word. Abandoned mines were politically portrayed as evil death traps, even though there were very few fatalities related to abandoned mines. By the 1990s, the phrase “Stay out, Stay Alive” was being beaten into the head of every child in Elementary school. Land managers told blatant lies about mines, how there were monsters, and spiders and all sorts of danger in every old mine. The history was somehow forgotten, and these mines were now evil things looming out in the unknown, waiting to devour the unwary wanderer.

Note that it wasn’t until 1975 that the restrictions on gold and mining were lifted. By this time, the mining revolution had been crushed for the most part. People who were working mines at a younger age in the 1930s were now well into their 60s and 70s, and thanks to restrictive federal regulations and the push towards a corporate America, the younger generation had no interest in mining.

In this way, the Federal government crushed the mining revolution, and drove all of the small people and companies out of mining. These miners left producing, lucrative gold mines because it was illegal to work them. Some blasted their mines shut, to preserve the minerals within for a later day. Some died, and some just never came back to work their mines. Thus many mines all over the country were abandoned, a good portion of these with viable gold, silver and other metal reserves just waiting to be worked.

Over the last 80 years, there have been a lot of mines that have been lost, forgotten or ignored, and while the federal government tries to destroy and close these sites as fast as budgets will allow, there are people out there putting claims on valuable properties and working those same old mines.

Mines are damaging to the environment

Natural discharge of iron minerals.

Natural discharge of iron minerals.

False – The environmental movement against mining is nothing less than blackmail against Mining companies. These mining companies make a lot of money, and it would make sense that someone would figure out how to try and take a piece of it for nothing. It just so happens that it’s our own federal government that figures out ways to take exorbitant amounts of dollars from these mines. They are fined, given ridiculous mandates, and still vilified for doing nothing more than driving the economy at the most basic level.

Mining has been around since the beginning of recorded history. Mining uses natural elements and organic compounds to extract gold, silver, platinum and a host of other elements from the ground. Arsenic, cyanide, and other poisons occur naturally. Acid mine drainage is a myth; it is water running through rocks. The same thing happens every day from the highest peaks to the low valleys where water pools and flows.

The myth of mines making people sick, and poisoning them is just that. It’s a scare tactic that is easily funded, and then enforced by agencies such as the EPA and MSHA. Consider towns such as Aspen, Colorado or Park City, Utah and a plethora of others that are located in areas where there was plenty of mining activity and those towns are still alive and well.

Mine tailings grow trees, flowers and all sorts of natural fauna. With the exception of deserts, if you leave a mine for 50 years and you will have a hard time finding where it once was. Trees, plants and all sort of natural foliage will quickly overgrow and retake the sites.

These old guys have found more mines than any college educated geologists.

These old guys have found more mines than any college educated geologists.

Mining requires extensive knowledge and training.

False – Look at historical miners. Do they look like they are right out of college? Straight out of the Miners school of Mining? No, miners all over the world are some of the least formally educated, least trained individuals you will find. Look at the gold rushes of the United States. These weren’t the doctors and lawyers that were rushing out to the gold fields, it was the blue-collar workers of the days. No formal training, no formal knowledge, just a desire to improve their financial status in the world. It’s one of very few chances people have to literally go from rags to riches dependent on their drive, work ethic and some basic mining savvy.

No one trades in gold or minerals anymore

False – Gold is at the heart of all trade, it may be traded in paper or digitally, but gold is what makes the world go around. Gold backs the dollars you spend (or it should), Gold is a tangible asset, above real-estate or art or guns. Gold is what makes the world go around.

Mining is so complex and difficult that there is no way that someone like you, with no mining experience, could own or work a mine.

False – While the federal agencies try to confuse and deter miners with complex rules and regulations, it is still possible to run and operate a successful mine. There are many companies that can assist with legal consultation and writing Notice of Operations, bonding and more. It’s simply a matter of arming yourself with education.

Mining and mines haven’t really changed since the 1600s when miners from Spain and South America came into the US and began mining gold, silver, copper and gems from the Western States. The concept is simple: find a vein of mineral, take it from the ground, and process it into something that can be traded for currency. The methods haven’t changed much either. Oh the big mines have sexy, big rigs and machinery, but they still mine the same way: identify, blast, recover, and repeat.

There is one big change nowadays. Large mining companies working underground are filling their tunnels as fast as they blast them. Voids are filled with a concrete type mixture and it’s like no one was ever there. As a result, the history of mining is vanishing in this country as well. There are no more tunnels and drifts being created to be explored at a later date.

The supply of mines and mining claims is not infinite, and therein lies the intrinsic value. These underground glimpses of rich mineral bodies are vanishing at a rapid rate. Due to both attacks from the federal government and by private individuals who are snapping up the valuable claims usually as fast as they become available.

Abandoned mines are alive, and will eat you! Fear them !

Abandoned mines are alive, and will eat you! Fear them !

Mines are extraordinarily dangerous.

False – Propaganda is huge on this, and for some reason people just accept what they hear and don’t question. Abandoned mines in general are promoted by federal agencies as dark and scary places. So much so that some believe just being near an abandoned mine can kill you.

People work underground all day, and very few are injured or die. Abandoned mines have been out there for 100+ years. They are still intact, they are still as solid and stable as they day they were cut. These miners cut mines with dynamite. They aren’t going to collapse because of a loud noise, or because you touched a wall. As with anything, education keeps you safe. Federal agencies do not want you to be educated about how to be safe, they just want you out.

Truck drivers, Construction workers, electricians, welders and other blue collar workers have a much higher fatality and injury rate than mining of any sort.

That said, there is tax money that funds the destruction and closure of abandoned mines, and budgets grow year by year. If the problem seems larger, more funding will be thrown at it. Campaigns like “Stay out and Stay Alive” are inaccurate and misleading, and intentionally so.

To sum up, against all odds in this country, Mining is still a viable option to make a living for many people. So now you have a little background and history on Mining and why there is a value in Mining Claims.

  • safety
  • finding
  • working
  • safety
  • laws