FIRST QUARTER, FEBRUARY 2016 VOLUME 30, NUMBER 2
Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager
Story by Dicky Melton
Mother Nature sure has given us a variety of weather so far this winter mining season in Happy Camp. There has been plenty of rain, some freezing weather in the mid-twenties, snow, and sometimes temperatures up in the mid-fifties. But even the worst weather hasn’t stopped some ambitious miners from seeking their fortunes; they just modify their prospecting methods accordingly.
We had snow about two weeks ago. That was followed by lots of rain which melted the snow pretty fast. The banks of rivers and creeks were overflowing. Every now and again you could hear boulders crashing against other boulders underwater. It sounded a bit like a bowling alley. This made me grin as I thought of new gold being deposited in my mining spot. Cool!
There is a big culvert at the top of the trail that goes down to the area where I have been mining during the past few summers. The culvert was so full of water in this past storm that it was overflowing its banks and my trail turned into a river. Mainly for the adventure, I inched my way down there, set up my hand sluice on the edge of the torrent, and started shoveling in the material. When I cleaned up the box a little while later, I recovered about a quarter-pennyweight of nice gold. This is confirmation that these winter storms are replenishing New 49’er properties – especially along the banks where we can get to easily with our hand tools.
I was telling some other members about it over coffee at the office one morning. That’s when Jon Martin spoke up and said he was mining in the creek close to his camp using a sucker gun and sluice box. I asked if I could video the system he was using. “Sure” he said.
Jon is one of eight people that I can think of who are camping up and down the Klamath River this winter. Yes, even in all the cold wet weather we are experiencing in northern California. The rest of us who are actively mining are living in nice warm houses or RV’s.
Jon’s prospecting area is deep in a steep canyon. It’s only about twenty feet wide at the bottom. I had never been to this place before. Standing down in that canyon I was amazed at the beauty of the place. I got one of those “lucky feeling” twinges when I flashed on the sixty-plus miles of gold properties available to all New 49’er members. That’s more than I will check out in my remaining years.
My wife Cheri and I joined the New 49’ers in 1998. We just hand mined, sluiced, gold panned and metal detected for gold nuggets during the first few years. Talking about great adventure! We always brought our kids, grand kids, and as many other kids that wanted to come. We would go rafting, or over to the Oregon caves, or just have picnics on the beach and swim. I would always do some gold prospecting, sometimes crevassing with mask and snorkel — or just prospecting on the creeks. We always found some gold. My granddaughter Lily prospected alongside me for a month last summer. Those are more memories that neither of us will ever forget. I’m looking forward to her being here during the 2016 season, also. You spend some quiet time on the river with your grandkids, and the memories are more valuable than the gold you are hunting for!
Even though the creek was running high and fast, using his sucker gun to recover gravel from the bottom, Jon was doing very well on gold recovery. Check it out right here in the video sequences I captured:
I bought one of those sucker guns from the mining store in Happy Camp a few years ago. Like a lot of my toys, it has been sitting in my garage ever since. But after watching Jon’s demonstration, I’ll be putting my sucker gun to work right away. There are some deeper underwater areas at my site that I would like to visit…
I hope to see all of you out on the river. Stop by and say hello!
In last month’s newsletter, I encouraged everyone to make contact with the California State Water Resources Control Board asking what must be done to obtain a water quality permit or waiver in order to qualify for a suction dredge permit during the 2016 season. I gather that the Water Resources Control Board was overwhelmed by the number of enquiries. Thanks very much to all of you who joined in this effort. Now I am asking you to please, as soon as possible, send us copies of the written responses that you received: Dave Mack C/O The New 49’ers, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039. Anyone who has taken the enquiry beyond the initial communication; if you have anything interesting to report, please immediately contact email@example.com.
We have very qualified people pushing forward on the water quality permitting process. While there are no guarantees of success, our people continue to express hope for a positive outcome. We will keep you informed of any meaningful progress.
The Rinehart case is waiting for a Decision by the California Supreme Court. You may recall that the California Third Appellate Court found unanimously for suction dredgers in Rinehart. This case is all about whether or not federal law prevents the State of California from imposing material interference upon mining or prospecting on the public lands. It is perhaps the most important litigation concerning American mining in our lifetimes. More recently, the Court has requested further briefing as to how California’s new Water Quality law (SB 637) might affect the Rinehart outcome. Briefing is due in mid-February. There is some degree of hope that we can perhaps bring to the high court’s attention that the new Water Quality law is an expanded attempt by the State to materially interfere with mining on the public lands.
In a separate set of cases, we have switched gears into appealing San Bernardino Superior Court’s recent Ruling to deny any meaningful relief to suction dredgers even after the court has ruled and ordered that California’s suction dredge moratorium is unconstitutional. As you may recall, our initial Motion for a Statewide Injunction to prohibit California from enforcing the unconstitutional moratorium and return us to the earlier set of regulations that were legal was recently denied by the Superior Court of San Bernardino. We believe that Ruling was flawed, and have now appealed to California’s Forth Appellate Court to get our motion approved.
And in a more recent, surprising development, the State attempted to criminally prosecute New 49’er members, Derek Eimer and Dyton Gilliland in Siskiyou Superior Court (suction dredging in California without a permit). Our attorney, James Buchal, did a wonderful job motioning the Court to dismiss all charges. You can see all the arguments right here. The hearing (Motion to Dismiss) took place on 5 November. Rather than dismiss the charges, the judge placed a Stay on any further attempted prosecution of suction dredgers in Siskiyou County until the California Supreme Court issues a Ruling in the Rinehart case. The judge said she will sign an Order for a return of all equipment that was seized from Derek and Dyton by Department of Fish & Wildlife wardens as long as the dredges are not used in Siskiyou County until the case against them has been resolved.
So it would appear that the rights of suction gold dredgers in California will continue to hang in the balance until the California Supreme Court weighs in. Here is a link to a Summary provided by our attorney.
Judge Ochoa in San Bernardino was supposed to decide on January 20th upon the arguments by suction dredgers that the State of California did not follow the Administrative Procedures Act when they developed the 2012 suction dredging regulations. We are also motioning for the San Bernardino Court for Summary Judgment to declare that the second and third suction dredge moratoriums are unconstitutional, that the requirements of the first moratorium have been met — therefore requiring California to resume issuing suction dredge permits. But rather than decide the issues, Judge Ochoa deferred judgment until Rinehart is ruled upon by the California Supreme Court.
A group of mining associations, business, and individuals in Oregon have banded together and hired James Buchal (same attorney who has been representing us and others) to challenge Oregon’s 5-year suction dredge moratorium which is supposed to go into effect in January of 2016. The case is so cut and dry on the basis of established federal law, the miners have asked the federal court for an expedited summary judgment in hopes of saving their 2016 season. You can find the legal arguments here.
Reviews of Modern Hand-prospecting Gear
Non-motorized prospecting activity is specifically provided a waiver in California’s new Water Quality law. As far as I am aware, non-motorized prospecting activity along New 49’er properties does not require any permit and is not subject to any season. Since many members are looking for a totally hassle free way to prospect for gold along our extensive properties this coming season, Montine in our office (530 493-2062) suggested that it would be a good idea to provide some demonstrations of modern hand mining gear that can almost keep up with motorized prospecting. Here is her first review:
Legal Fund Drawing in February
Our ongoing Legal Fund Drawing – which will be for 3 ounces of American Gold Eagles and 10 ounces of American Silver Eagles – will come to a close on Friday, 26 February. This will be the last newsletter you will receive before the drawing takes place.
As most of you know, these Legal Fund drawings are how we generate most of the funds necessary to defend the rights of small-scale gold miners. To date, there has not been very much participation in this latest fundraiser. I have my fingers crossed that we will get a bunch of support from you guys during these last three weeks before the drawing.
The drawing will take place after lunch at New 49’er headquarters in Happy Camp, California on 26 February. You do not need to be a member of our organization to participate. You are welcome to be at the drawing, but you do not need to be present to win.
Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 will generate 10 tickets). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win.
All contributions to The New 49’ers Legal Fund are tax deductible.
Once again; thank you guys very much for standing behind us!
Updating the Billing System in our Offices
We have hired a specialist to resolve problems with our monthly and annual billing system. The first round of changes was made before we printed the February billing. The only way to know if we have everything the way it belongs is to get feedback from members. If your billing seems incorrect, please don’t hesitate to call Bonnie or Music in our office: 530 493-2012.
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The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012 www.goldgold.com