Defend Your Right to Mine on Public Lands

Miners rightsIn a perfect world, the Forest Service and BLM would respect their own mottos and make public land available for all uses. However, as we are aware, the Forest Service and BLM do not respect your right to prospect and mine on public lands. They will lie, mislead and try to bulldoze anything related to mining.

As you may know, Gold Rush Expeditions is about more than just mining claims. Our company was formed and exists on the fundamental principle of restoring the prominence and rights of Mining and Miners. We believe that Mining is vital to the progression and growth of America; that mining and mining lands are just as important as having wilderness and untouched lands. A balance in everything.

In many cases, your public land managers and officials are at odd with this concept. Many BLM and Forest Service officials would like to see all evidence of mining erased, never to return. We at Gold Rush Expeditions think that this is not only shortsighted, but a very ignorant, and also illegal point of view. There are many laws and regulations that protect your right to mine and work on public lands. Anti-mining land managers are hoping that you never find out about these laws and are willing to lie directly to you to try and further their agendas.

Defending your claim with guns and threat of force is only going to lead to more militant actions by the BLM and Forest Service. That is something that no one wants. But you do have options to defend your rights. The Forest Service and BLM cannot deny your access to your mine. They cannot restrict your access to minerals and they cannot close roads to your mines. These actions are illegal.

If you have an issue or interference from local or federal authorities who are overstepping the law and restricting mining activity on your claim, please contact us immediately. We can advise you and if necessary put you in touch with the proper authorities and legal entities to quickly and efficiently resolve your problems.

We would rather see you in court winning a cash settlement against the offending agency, than being put on a list for being a menace.

We have been doing this work for over 20 years now and we know what to do. It’s one of the reasons that these agencies are so frustrated with Gold Rush Expeditions. Everytime we hear someone say “The BLM/Forest Service guys really hate you, they had a lot of bad to say about you”, we know we are doing our job. We will stand up to these federal agencies, working within the law and exercise our legal rights to promote mining in the West.

In the meantime, if you have any interactions with the Forest Service or BLM, here are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from any misinformation and to enforce your rights on public lands:

  • With any interaction, be sure to get a name and department of the official you are speaking with. In some states, it is required that you disclose recordings over the phone, in some you do not need to inform that you are recording. We at Gold Rush Expeditions record every single phone call that comes in or goes out of the office.
  • When discussing any issue with a Forest Service or BLM official, ask for documentation and CFR (Code of Federal Regulation that verifies their assertions). Ask for any information related to your claim or work on or around you claim to be put into writing. This can be in the form of an official notice or citation.
  • Again, ask for their assertion to be put in writing. If push for a reason why, be blunt and tell them that you will be taking legal action to assert your rights and their statement will be submitted in court.
  • If approached on your claim by a BLM or Forest Service agent, be sure to record your interaction. This can be done with a cell phone or dash cam, or both. We strongly suggest that you have 2 methods of recording any interactions. A camera in the field is worth far more than any gun when it comes to federal interactions. Advise the official that you are recording the interaction. Ask for written confirmation of the interaction. Do not get into any sort of debate or altercation with the officers. Comply with their requests; use your recordings to call them to task in a courtroom, not in the field. You will lose in the field, every time.

The key element here is documentation. If they are unwilling to send or create written documentation of their statements, they cannot expect to enforce them. However, they will make many statements that are inaccurate or sometimes outright lies. (We recently heard of a FS official who advised a claimant that Colorado simply does not acknowledge Casual Use Mining – that would have been amazing to get on tape!)

These tips will help you to not only assert your rights, but also help these agents to understand the rights of the American citizen and the American Miner. Together and united we are strong and we will make a difference for today’s miners and for future generations of miners.

Example of legal letters sent to the BLM:

Below are some sample letters that we have written to the BLM. In the case that you receive a letter from the BLM where your legal mining rights are threatened it’s important to respond promptly and it’s also important to respond by quoting relevant, current mining law, so they know that you know your stuff and you can’t be pushed around. If you need good mining legal advice we recommend you contact Russell D. Hartill: thelivingwest@gmail.com. He is very knowledgeable when it comes to a miner’s rights and can help you draft an appropriate response to the BLM or FS.

If you Reclaim/ Backfill my Mines I will Pursue Legal Action

In response to your recent letter. I am in fact the claimant of record for the aforementioned lode claim.

Your letter advising me of a purported anticipated reclamation of mine features on my claim is surprising in that you allege that a serious public safety hazard exists within my claim boundaries that you wish to expend federal dollars to abate and seal via backfilling. Having examined the claim in detail before and after staking same, I cannot and do not understand exactly which feature is considered a serious public safety hazard worthy and of need of abatement. The main mine feature in question is a vertical or horizontal shaft. We seriously doubt that such a feature qualifies as an eligible serious/extreme hazard for complete abatement funding via the OSME coal royalty sharing program. Without such federal funds, would the BLM be interested/motivated and still demanding that this shaft be completely backfilled? And with what material will the shaft be backfilled? We believe that mine tailings on claim contain mineral values that If redeposited downshaft would result in a dimunition of claim worth. Said diminution would be a taking under the 5th Amendment.

It should be noted, that in your letter you allege that by objecting to this closure I must submit a notice of operation. This is not a true statement: Casual Use mining operators are not legally required to submit a Notice of Operation per:

§ 3809.10 (a) Casual use, for which an operator need not notify BLM. (You must reclaim any casual-use disturbance that you create. If your operations do not qualify as casual use, you must submit a notice or plan of operations, whichever is applicable. See §§3809.11 and 3809.21.); Calling or declaring the use of a preexisting mine feature activity that “exceeds casual use” is unsustainable under the mining laws and seems to only be an artifice to attempt to secure via coercion financial responsibility from current claimholders for past mining activity. However, as a courtesy to the BLM I have completed a notice of operation as casual use and attached it to this letter.

Further, any plan or manipulation of the features on this mining claim could have severe economic repercussions on myself. Any modification of the adit/shaft on the claim would negate and/or erase my discovery and would block access to the minerals that I possess full ownership of. This would be an illegal 5th Amendment taking and will be treated as such.

Your letter also indicates that I would be responsible for the opening as it sits. There is no legal precedent or historical acceptance for a claimant to accept current and future responsibility for any openings or features on my claim. Further, the BLM actually agrees with the stance that I would not be responsible, per:

§ 3809.116 (a) Mining claimants and operators (if other than the mining claimant) are liable for obligations under this subpart that accrue while they hold their interests. I have taken great care to prevent any unnecessary degradation as defined by the BLM. Per: § 3809.415 (a) Complying with §3809.420, as applicable; the terms and conditions of your notice or approved plan of operations; and other Federal and State laws related to environmental protection and protection of cultural resources; (b) Assuring that your operations are “reasonably incident” to prospecting, mining, or processing operations and uses as defined in §3715.0–5 of this title; and (c) Attaining the stated level of protection or reclamation required by specific laws in areas such as the California Desert Conservation Area, Wild and Scenic Rivers, BLM-administered portions of the National Wilderness System, and BLM-administered National Monuments and National Conservation Areas.

Finally the unsupported legal opinion that I would need to place a reclamation bond upon my claim for casual use activity is completely ridiculous. The BLM has left this land open, as is, to prospecting. I am utilizing public land with a legal and valid mining claim. This is no way requires any sort of bond and to attempt to force a bond on myself would be a serious infringement of my rights on public lands as related to prospecting and mining. My expectation is that my mining claim will not be disturbed and will be left in the state that it is currently in. I have made thoughtful improvements to the site in cleaning up trash and garbage that had been dumped in and around our claim in addition to the annual maintenance fees.

We have fully complied with all laws related to mining claims and we expect that the BLM will comply with those same laws. The policy of attempting to secure financial responsibility from non-approving claimants for questionable closures will not survive an IBLA or court challenge. Closures that do not meet the criteria for expenditure of OSME administered funds will also be fought under their own guidelines as well as under NEPA and Sec 106 of the NHPA.

I would request a prompt response to this letter confirming that no remediation will go forward on my claim. Any final decision should provide ample time for appeal and other legal actions before any actions are taken on the site in question.

Sincerely,

Mine Claimant

Refusal to Post Bonds or Submit a Plan of Operations

REFUSAL to POST BOND/SUBMIT PLAN OF OPERATIONS

We are in receipt of your latest letter wherein you claim that our activities in and around a preexisting mine feature amount to activities that “exceed casual use.” You cite no specific activity that somehow mutates into excess casual use. We have listed only specific activities that BLM guidelines indicate are precisely within the casual use definition, but you now claim that such activities when conducted in and around a mine feature you have identified for closure are somehow beyond casual use.

What specific activity makes it so? Is it the activity that now is excess casual use or is it the mere fact of wanting the preexisting feature left open that is the determinant factor in recategorizing activity as beyond casual use? It appears that the BLM is trying to categorize any mining claim with preexisting mine features to be a claim upon which no casual activity can ever be deemed to be occurring and that all such claims must file and post financial guarantees merely due to someone before us having made said features. Such a position effectively guts the intent and purpose of the Mining Laws: to facilitate the location and discovery of mining claims. FLPMA was never designed to circumvent and destroy a claimant’s right to locate claims.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 19761 (FLPMA), sets forth comprehensive guidelines for the management and protection of BLM Lands and their resources. FLPMA represents an effort to strike a balance between the exercise of rights under the General Mining Laws and protection of the environment: “the public lands [shall] be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of…scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values…”;2 “the public lands [shall] be managed in a manner which recognizes the Nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals…from the public lands including implementation of the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970 (84 Stat. 1875, 30 U.S.C. 21a)…”;3 “no provision of this section or any other section of this Act shall in any way amend the Mining Law of 1872 or impair the rights of any locators or claims under that Act…”4

1. 43 U.S.C. ” 1701-1782 (1994). 2. See id. ‘ 1701(a)(8). 3. Id. ‘ 1701(a)(12). 4. Id. ‘ 1732(b); see also David P. Kimball, III, “Impact of BLM Surface Management Regulations on Exploration and Mining Operations,” 28 Rocky Mt. Min. L. Inst. 509 (1982).

Your policy of attempting to require bonds of claimants wishing to keep features open is a poorly disguised attempt to shift responsibility for pre-1981 feature abatement off of the agency and onto current claimants. We respectfully disagree and will not submit a plan of operation and will not post a financial guarantee for post mining remediation. Our voluntary notice of casual use operations IS our plan of operations and we hereby resubmit it as the only notice we care to voluntarily give the agency. We again ask the agency to identify the specific activity we have proposed that now exceeds casual use.

We ask that your decision to categorize maintaining a preexisting mine feature as “in excess of casual use” be forwarded to your State Director for further review in light of our position outlined herein.

If this letter is your final decision we hereby request that said decision be appealed to the IBLA and this is your notice of our intent to file an appeal with IBLA. Please confirm whether in fact this is your final decision so that we may properly file the IBLA appeal paperwork timely.

Sincerely,

Mine Claimant

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