SECOND QUARTER, APRIL 2016 VOLUME 30, NUMBER 4
Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager
Story by Laura Bagley and Scott Coleman
Its spring, its spring! Finally, winter is over. Signs of warming weather are everywhere. One of my favorites are the butterflies; they are out in droves, especially the cute little periwinkle ones. Trees and shrubs are budding and showing the first signs of leaves. Temperatures have been in the 70’s this week. We are seeing all the birds returning. Osprey and bald eagles are soaring overhead on the river. It is truly beautiful along the Klamath River during this special time of the year.
The river remains a bit swollen, but it’s dropping a little bit every day. A murky plume of chilly water still stretches the entire length of the river from bank to bank. Having been here during the winter months gives me a new meaning to the wild side of the Klamath. I am all too ready for the gentler, scenic side. The Klamath remains a bit too swift to cross for the likes of me. Although it won’t be long until I’ll be paddling our boat to the far side of the river.
Even though we have been at it all winter, there remain quite a few New 49’er mining properties we have yet to explore. We are particularly interested in seeing what flood waters uncovered or left behind as the river drops.
Scott and I set a goal for ourselves back in December to fill a two-ounce vial with gold by summer. As of today, we have reached the halfway mark. One ounce of gold; cool! Now that we have spring weather, we’ll be on the river daily. Our goal was a challenge to ourselves as winter storms raged through Happy Camp. I admit the bad weather did slow us down a bit. We got 52 inches of rain; no kidding!
While money is always important, our main purpose has been to enjoy every minute of this absolutely incredible outdoor wilderness adventure. We feel so lucky just to be here! So, rather than resist the new non-motorized rule imposed upon our rights to mine by the State of California, we have simply switched gears into hand mining with a sense of adventure. We know the legal battle for our side is in good hands. So, for now, we have trimmed down our active prospecting gear to two lightly-loaded backpacks with everything we need to find gold. Our production hasn’t slowed its pace by much. It’s even possible we may have even improved our gold recovery.
Here’s how we are doing it: Sample, sample, sample, everywhere! You never know what you’ll dig up in the unlikeliest of places. We recovered a half-pennyweight out of a platter-sized depression in the bedrock with only an inch of river-flow material on top. It was quite the thrill seeing all that gold light up like bright stars on a dark night when I took a close look at the first of three scoops of material; it didn’t even fill my pan! There were tiny flakes of gold all over the bedrock! I had to snuffer most of the gold up to get it into my gold pan. We kept it in its own snuffer bottle just to see how much gold was in the little depression. It was very exciting and rewarding for just a few minutes of effort. I mean we went out and searched; and we found pure treasure. It doesn’t get much better than that! I hope the State hasn’t made any new rules about making noise in the forest, because Scott and I probably scared off wildlife for miles up and down the canyon with our whooping excitement.
Sample everywhere; that’s the key! Back when we were using a motor, recovering acceptable amounts of gold was more about moving the volume. But the larger, heavier gear limited the places we could get to. The gold deposits had to be larger to justify setting up all that gear in a single location. And we had to find richer areas that were more distant from the active waterway so our tailings water could be settled up on the bank.
Don’t get me wrong; we were doing really well with a high-banker. Non-motorized prospecting just requires a different approach. It is less about volume and more about having the flexibility to move around and sample everywhere; even right next to the running water. Once the river drops more, I’m sure we will be sampling the shallow areas that have been underwater all winter, and even inside the river. You can really get around when you are using gear that can be picked up and taken with you sample after sample. Hint: Stick to the areas where the streambed material is shallow to the bedrock or to a change of layers.
I’m really liking this method; because we are able to see how much gold we are recovering bucket by bucket. Setting up a motorized high-banker requires at least ten buckets of material to break it down and see what you recovered. Otherwise it is just too much work. Sometimes it was only the first bucket that paid, and all the rest of the effort was for little or nothing. Yeah, I’m liking this method! Once we see the amount of gold dwindling, we immediately switch gears back into sampling around until we find more river-run material that is worth digging. You would be amazed how many small deposits of gold can be found that produce good results for a portable, more flexible program!
Scott and I are not the only New 49’er members who have devoted the winter adapting to non-motorized opportunities. Here is some video that Dickey Melton captured of a member who asked to remain anonymous; because, I think, he doesn’t want anyone following him into the hotspot he located. Can you blame him?
There are a bunch of us really looking forward to the summer weather settling in. More members are starting to arrive in Happy Camp every week. I am especially waiting for the days we can get in the water to snipe with the new sucker gun we got here at prospecting store in Happy Camp. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to operate the Gold Hog pan underwater, as well. This should make for a very profitable summer, filled with all sorts of New 49’er adventures!
See you guys on the river!
Miners Lose Motion for Summary Judgment in Oregon
We will need to appeal this Decision in one fashion or another (please see next section below):
I believe this undermines any chance of a legal 2016 mining season along most of the gold bearing waterways in the State of Oregon.
Let’s not give up. The battle is not over in Oregon!
There is Reason for Hope!
Here is an expanded version of a reply that I recently made on our Internet forum where a member was voicing frustration about the new water quality law in California:
Clearly established federal law says that the State cannot impose a material interference upon your mining or prospecting activity on the public lands.
It is a sign of the times, and how much difficulty our country is in, when State employees intentionally ignore clearly established law by concocting and enforcing “schemes” to deliberately impose material interferences upon the rest of us. This is not only happening in mining; it is everywhere! Anyone paying attention to national politics right now can recognize that the American people are fed up with the direction our government is leading the country. Nearly every conversation I have with people these days evolves into how disappointed people are.
My own understanding of the new water law is that it says no mechanized device can be used within 100 yards of an active waterway to support any kind of gold prospecting activity. This does not mean the new law is legal! Having said that, my best guess is that State officials will be out enforcing the new law because that is what they are being directed to do. Please be respectful to them. Local game wardens are not the ones who make the rules. Rather, they are charged with the duty to carry out very unreasonable actions against the backbone of America, while they signed on to go after real lawbreakers. These poor guys joined public service at the wrong time in American history!
The Siskiyou County Superior Court has put a Stay on all mining-related criminal prosecutions until the Rinehart case is decided by the California Supreme Court. Rinehart goes to the same question of how much authority the State has, if any, to impose laws or regulations so restrictive that they add up to a prohibition upon mining on the public lands.
At this point, I believe all mining-related litigation in California is on hold until the California Supreme Court weighs in on Rinehart.
Last season, even after the San Bernardino Superior Court found for our side, the State used its police powers to impound suction dredging equipment being used by miners. Some of the gear has since been returned. We are working on the remainder. The New 49’ers Legal Fund has stepped in to assist any and all miners who the State attempted to prosecute. There were only a few. Those attempted prosecutions are now on hold until Rinehart is decided.
The same new law which prohibits the use of mechanized equipment to prospect or mine for gold also includes language that requires the State to coordinate with the mining industry before they can begin enforcing the new law. So far, all of our requests for meetings have been turned away. The Department of Fish & Wildlife has also refused our request to put something in writing about which prospecting activities they believe will be against the new law. Their verbal response has been something to the effect, “What part of ‘mechanized’ do you stupid miners not understand?” The truth is they don’t want to disclose anything in writing that will certainly be used against them in court. Their position is that they have been too busy to organize public meetings, so they will begin enforcing the law until they get around to meeting with us. So here we have the State only enforcing the portion of the new law which applies to us and ignoring the part that applies to them.
My guess is that Donald Trump’s response, or that of any of the other republican presidential contenders, would be something like this: “The really stupid people are the ones who have dedicated themselves to shutting down the American economy!”
This image is described by the California Department of Mines & Minerals as “A small placer operation in Siskiyou County.”. Not only did salmon survive mining activity on this (small) scale, historical records acknowledge that they thrived in it! Submission by longtime, supportive member, Jesse Love.
I’m not a licensed attorney. Therefore I cannot provide legal advice to anyone. But having devoted my entire adult life to the industry, and having directed a fair share of the litigation in defense of small-scale mining, I can voice my own opinion that a State law which prohibits the use of a mechanized system to support a mining program, with no consideration given to the impacts, or absence of impacts, is entirely unlawful and unenforceable. The San Bernardino Superior Court and the California Third Appellate Court have each weighed in favor of this opinion during the past few years — even though the State has refused to stop enforcing laws which are clearly not legal.
Before this is all over, I believe we will get all this nonsense turned around with such finality that the next generation of miners will be blessed with a level playing field; perhaps even one in which the State encourages and rewards productive economic activity — rather than attempt to turn producers into criminals.
Maybe that time is not so far away.
In the meantime, I predict if you set your motor up to pump water from the river to your recovery system, if they find out about it, the State enforcement guys are likely to come down and ask you to stop. If you refuse, my best guess, since they cannot prosecute you, is that they will impound your pump as evidence against some possible future prosecution. They have up to a year to hold onto your gear and bring charges, even if they have not written you a criminal citation. Even if they have no intention to prosecute you at all!
Just because a law is illegal from the beginning does not mean that law enforcement authority will not be enforcing it upon you. Welcome to America as it is today!
If Donald Trump is going to truly make America great again, he will need to reach well beyond the federal agencies, declare a state of national economic emergency, and do away with all or most of the State and local departments of government where misguided officials are using unreasonable rules and regulations to prevent Americans from being productive. A lot of officials need to be told, “You’re Fired!”
Until that time happens, mainly because of your support, we are fortunate to have The New 49’ers Legal Fund in place to assist miners and prospectors that are being victimized by a system that is turned so upside down that departments of government, which are supposed to be providing service, are instead using their authority to make the average Joe into a criminal.
It’s not as bad as it could be. There are plenty of places in the world where you could be shot, tortured, thrown in jail and lose all your assets for the serious crime of possessing a motorized pump! Or are there? America is now ranked as one of the worst places in the world to start up a mining program of any size. With management like this, it’s no wonder the country is 19 Trillion dollars in debt. It’s just a matter of time before America will wake up and reform these insane policies! Right? Or what then?
As I pointed out in our March newsletter, the Legal Fund will be helping to defend prospectors (using “mechanized systems”) that are being harassed by State officials. My own opinion is that the chances of getting prosecuted over a motor are about zero. The chances of having the motor taken away by the authorities are probably pretty likely if you refuse to stop using it. The chances of getting it back in the end are also very likely.
I suggested in the March newsletter that if you want to avoid hassles, you might consider non-mechanized prospecting during the coming season. As Laura suggests in the story above, a lot of members are adjusting their prospecting methods to go along with the new reality while our legal team is working on turning things around.
As bad as things are (We can’t even operate a small electric motor; you have to be joking!), and as long as we have been fighting, and as much as we have lost (even while we have been winning the legal battles), I would encourage everyone to reach way down inside and rekindle some hope. Truly; the richest pay-streaks I found in my career, the really rich ones that changed my life forever, were when I kept going even though things never looked so hopeless!
While I understand and am also experiencing frustration about the State having passed a law that prohibits me from even possessing even the smallest of a battery-operated bilge pump on my own mining claim, while any non-prospector is allowed to have one, there has never been a time that we have been so close to winning the most important legal battles that will turn it all around.
Hang with us for a while longer. As Dickey Melton has explained so well in the past several newsletters, while our very capable attorneys fight the larger battles for us in the courts, it is perhaps better during the meanwhile to enjoy and make the best out of the freedoms which we still do have which bring us some joy to our lives.
All would be lost if we did not have the very best legal team trying to get things set right on our behalf. And here is some breaking news: We are about to bring in reinforcements! Thanks to your generous contributions to The New 49’ers Legal Fund, The Legal Fund will now retain a law firm in Sacramento which specializes in federal challenges, and winning against State agencies that are exceeding their legal authority.
We will need to coordinate with the mining associations in Oregon on the question of appealing their recent loss in federal court to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. An appeal to the Ninth Circuit might scuttle our hope of overcoming (in federal court) the State of California’s deliberate “schemes” to prohibit mining. The fundamental case law is about the same in both cases, though circumstances are slightly different in California because we already have State court decisions in our favor. In fact, we want to prove that it was our wins in State court that prompted the State to enact the new water law. Said another way, State officials in California have doubled down on their “scheme” to prohibit mining. A federal win or loss in California will also most certainly be appealed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Once our new law firm is up to speed on existing circumstances, we will arrange for our primary attorney, James Buchal, to meet with them and discuss the options. James is also representing the Oregon Miners.
Please note that this is about as far as we want to go with legal discussions without the risk of undermining legal strategies. Stay tuned; and I will provide more details as we move forward.
Three Ounces of Klamath River Gold Nuggets!
To encourage your support in replenishing The New 49’ers Legal Defense Fund, The New 49’ers are allowing three ounces of Klamath River gold nuggets to be split into 25 prizes in this fund-raiser! The drawing will take place during our Saturday evening potluck in Happy Camp on 25 June 2016.
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 would generate 10 tickets). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win.
Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49’ers Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or online by clicking here:
2016 Weekend Group Prospecting Programs
All weekend events are free to Full & Associate Members
This season, we will be demonstrating how to recover volume-amounts of gold using non-mechanized methods of mining. Believe me when I say that there still remain viable methods of recovering Mother Nature’s golden treasure! You might be really surprised! All participants will receive an equal share of the gold we recover.
Schedule of Events: June 4 & 5; June 25 & 26; July 16 & 17; August 6 & 7; August 27 & 28
The New 49’ers provide all of the sluicing equipment and boats used in these projects. You will need to have your own basic digging tools, gold pan (available in the prospecting shop in Happy Camp) and transportation. You will also need to provide your own lodging and nourishment.
Group projects are limited to a manageable number of participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific weekend project: 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