The temperature is rising a little more every day as we get ready to welcome the month of May. Here in winter quarters in western Maryland the process takes a week or two longer than the rest of the state due to the change in elevation but the local forecast is calling for 70’s and occasional rain for the next week.
I have had quite a few people inquire about the plans for Oro Expeditions for the 2017 season so I figured it was time to share that which Paula Cas and I have been talking about all winter but first I want to take a few minutes to explain the recent past and the lack of an Expedition last year.
It was a cold day in October of 2015 that we returned to Maryland after spending two months in central Nevada where we had been invited to work a private hard rock claim. We had only been back for a few weeks when I did some serious damage to my back and neck. It was the beginning of a very painful time but also a most revealing time because after many troubles in the past with my back this was the time when I decided to find out just how bad it was.
Three MRI’s and three x-rays later, it was clear how much damage a lifetime of driving truck along with two major traumatic events had done to my back and neck. To top it off I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, stenosis, and a total of five bad disk in my back and neck. Thanks to all of that I have been placed into a “pain management” program which means I will be on some pretty heavy duty pain medication for the rest of my life.
Some would say “Oh no what a bummer.” but not me. The fact is I have a limited number of productive mining seasons left so I will be making the most of every one of them and that begins today. This is where the plans for 2017 will pick up where 2015 left off.
It was August of 2015 in northern California where I met a man named Dave. He had an offer for me that on one hand was almost too good to be true but on the other hand seemed very doable to me at the time.
After a chance meeting at our camp on the Klamath River, the offer was made for us to purchase a package deal that included a hover craft and 4 very exclusive gold claims on a large well known river in Alaska. Dave made it clear to us that he wanted Oro Expeditions to have this deal because he had done his research on me and the company and admired the way I had started the whole thing. Along with how quickly became a fairly successful gold miner.
I have spent a lot of time since August of 2015 putting together a lucrative investment package known as “Oro Expedition Alaska Extreme”. During the winter and early spring of 2016 I had high hopes of that season being the one that would see the Expedition in “The Land of The Midnight Sun” suction dredging a large river with millions of dollars in gold in it but the medical problems would not permit it.
When I realized it was time to get to the bottom things with my back and neck, I also realized the 2016 season would be a bust due to the recuperating process taking an unknown amount of time.
So now we jump ahead to the present, and things are really looking up for a slightly limited season this year that will include a return to many of the western locations we visited in 2015 along with the possibilities of taking the Expedition north of the Canadian border. That is the outline for the year and now for some of the details we have figured out to get things rolling in that direction.
Along with some destinations I visited in 2013 on the first Expedition like north Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and Alabama we are planning to make a trip to the northeast and the shiny yellow metal of New Hampshire and western Maine. This trip will probably take place later in the year before the cold weather moves in.
A trip to the eleven western states will include visits to many of the locations we were at in 2015. Places like southwest Oregon, Happy Camp California, central Nevada and multiple locations in Arizona are all included on the list.
One new location will be added to the list when we head to Arkansas for clear quartz and maybe even a side trip to the Crater of Diamonds State park. I hear the likelihood of scoring a sizable diamond has increased in the past few years so it has been added to the list as well.
That is an outline of how the 2017 season is shaping up, and if my back and neck cooperate, there is a good chance this is the year Oro Expeditions makes it to the Yukon and Alaska.
Regardless of whether or not we make it north, there will be a lot of mining and rock-hounding to be done here in the lower forty eight. So, stay tuned to our social media sites, especially to the official Oro Expeditions Website. Changes and updates will be ongoing so be sure to bookmark the site so you can check on our progress.
Above. Placer operation on the Yuba River using a suction dredge.
Did you ever wonder what the real studies say about suction dredging, but didn’t want to have to read through them all. A summary of every study we could find is provided here and links to the actual study. You can see our full list of suction dredging studies on the main research page.
Although technically not a study, this is a report of a senior fisheries biologist from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Responding to complaints from the Karuk tribe CDFW, in conjunction with the USFS sent two senior fisheries biologists to the Salmon River on the last day of dredging season in 2003 to evaluate the effects of an entire summer of dredging and whether these effects could be impacting salmon.
At the conclusion of the on-site evaluation Mr. Dennis Maria, the fisheries biologist concluded:
“The dredge holes created the only discernable juvenile rearing habitat that I could see. This rearing habitat consisted of clean unimbedded cobbles that covered the dredger pool substrate.”
“There exist documented instances that unstable spawning gravel mounds created by dredgers below dredge holes have been used by anadromous salmonids only to be lost by high winter flows washing these gravel mounds away. My files indicate little, if any, spawning occurs in this reach of the Salmon River. Peter Brucker, who has been involved with numerous spawning surveys on the Salmon River over the past number of years (>10 yrs.) agreed this reach of the Salmon River is not typically used for spawning.
“…it is unlikely that the current dredging impacts will significantly or substantially harm anadromous salmonid spawning habitat or juvenile salmonids within this reach.”
“In fact, for an area which had been dredged all summer long, I saw relatively innocuous disturbance of the existing habitat.”
“I saw nothing that would be considered a violation or that would have a significant impact to the fishery or significantly negatively impact the overall biotic community of the Salmon River. I would estimate that the amount of dredger disturbance on the mainstem Salmon River by New 49er members represents at most about 2 to 3% of the entire mainstem Salmon. Nearly most of the disturbed areas we saw during our tour were in areas not suitable for spawning.”
The 2012 California SEIR reviewed all available suction dredging studies and found all studies agreed turbidity from a suction dredge was localized and temporary and therefore an insignificant effect of dredging. However, they claimed the combined efforts of every dredger across the State would result in a significant increase in turbidity without citing any study which supported this position. The actual studies found:
In this study Harvey evaluated the effects of suction dredging on Butte Creek and the North Fork of the American River. The significant part of Harvey’s study was he evaluated the effect of 5″ and 6″ dredges over the course of two years and evaluated the effects of a single dredge and the cumulative effect of six dredges. His study primarily focused on the effects of small insects in the river.
Harvey found no significant differences in insect populations in areas which had been dredged, and those which hadn’t been dredged and found insects rapidly re-colonized dredged areas.
Harvey concluded fish weren’t significantly effected by dredging although short term they would move away from the dredge hole, but he found after dredging all eight study fish had moved from their previous location into the dredge hole indicating a 100% preference of the fish for the deeper water dredge hole.
During the experiment Harvey measured the turbidity of the dredge and found in the relatively clear water the turbidity change was noticeable, but dissipated rapdily and didn’t appear to effect either the fish or the insects.
“Fish and invertebrates apparently were not highly sensitive to dredging in general, probably because the streams studied naturally have substantial seasonal and annual fluctuations…Along with the rapid temporal recovery of insects seen in this study, these results suggest that suction dredging effects can be short-lived on streams where high annual flows occur.”
This report studied the cumulative effects of suction dredging in the Siskiyou National Forest under contract to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Baley study focused primarily on the effect of suction dredging on young salmon and found no significant effect. He concludes:
“Localized, short-term effects of suction dredge mining have been documented in a qualitative sense. However, on the scales occupied by fish populations such local disturbances would need a strong cumulative intensity of many operations to have a measurable effect. Local information reveals most suction dredge miners more or less adhere to guidelines that have recently been formalized by the U.S. Forest Service…Given that this analysis could not detect an effect averaged over good and bad miners and that more powerful study would be expensive, it would seem that public money would be better spent on encouraging compliance with current guidelines than further study.”
In this 1982 study commissioned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife the research evaluated the effects of suction dredging on the environment across the state and with dredge sizes from 2″ to 10″. Over 270 dredges were studied.
The authors found “…relatively few suction dredge miners are causing negative impacts.”
The authors found the presence of mining claims tended to distribute the dredging operations out and resulted in less environmental impact than in areas where there were no mining claims. The most intensive dredging they found was in areas which were open to dredging, but closed to the location of mining claims. “Claimed streams like the North Fork of the Yuba River had a more even distribution of dredges. However, instream dredging effects tend to be localized not cumulative (Harvey et al. 1982)
The authors concluded “Even with the large increase in the number of suction dredge mining operations in recent years, the aquatic and riparian habitat impacts observed on selected streams of the Mother Lode during this study were minimal.
This 1995 study was conducted under contract to the U.S. Forest service in response to an environmental groups lawsuit which claimed suction dredging was harming the environment.
The purpose of the study was to respond to allegations suction dredges harmed various fish including salmon. The study found salmon would spawn in suction dredge tailings if no other suitable habitat was present which could potentially be detrimental to redd survival if there was a heavy winter flow which could re-distribue the tailings. However, they found the selection of suction dredge tailings was only about 10% and they didn’t observe any mortality of redds in dredge tailings.
The study found a near 100% mortality rate if salmon eggs were sucked through the dredge hose and a very high mortality rate if the fingerlings were sucked through the dredge hose. The study found virtually no risk to juvenile and adult fish.
Salmon preference for dredge habitat was found to be uncertain. “Depending on existing water depth and velocity, dredging may increase or decrease the availability of preffered habitat for salmonids by altering the morphology of individual channel geographic units.”
The study went on to find the deposition of fine silt by a dredge likely has no impact on salmonids and no clear effect on salmon could be determined by the presence of suction dredges in the river, although the report cautioned the location of suction dredges which would block salmon from finding cooler waters could be a concern.
The report found no effects on stream insects consistent with earlier research.
“The three studies which have quantified colonization by benthic invertebrates afer dredging was stopped (Griffith and Andrews 1981; Thomas 1985; Harvey 1986) measured rapid recovery (within 4-6 weeks) in terms of both numbers and species composition.”
“Many recreational dredgers operate for less than five hours per day, suggesting that data from studies exposing biota to chronic suspended sediments would not apply to the impacts of dredging.”
“Available data indicate that individual dredges need not have significant downstream effects on aquatic biota. Downstream impacts may occur where closely-spaced dredges create the potential for cumulative effects of multiple dredges. The only attempt to measure cumulative effects of dredging on fish and invertebrates (Harvey 1986) suggested that a moderate density of dredges does not generate detectable cumulative effects.
This study evaluated the effects of a 3″ suction dredge on fish and insects on four Idaho streams during the summer of 1980.
This study is interesting because it intentionally ran salmonid eggs through a suction dredge to determine mortality. Although no research, anywhere, has shown a suction dredge to actually do this the author of the study wanted to determine what would happen to various fish eggs if they were sucked up by a dredge. The study concluded for some types of eggs there would be a near 100% mortality rate. Although this may be true, there is likely a 100% mortality rate if you lay the same eggs out on the highway. However, the study also found only the un-eyed stage of the eggs is susceptible to mortality from a suction dredge. Once the eggs were “eyed” they had a much higher rate of survival.
This is another study which measured the effects on insects found within the stream and again concluded recolonization by insects is very rapid and there are no significant effects on insect populations. The study evaluated 2,100 mayfly larvae and found only two individuals were injured by the suction dredge. “Aquatic insects were surprising resilent to the effects of entrainment.”
The study found the actual amount of material moved differed greatly from advertised rates. When measuring actual material moved by a 3″ dredge the author found only .05 cubic meters per hour, but when measured using only pre-classified sands and gravel the “advertised rate” the amount of material moved was .13 cubic meters an hour, or double.
“Turbidity below the dredge in Napias Creek and Yankee Fork was nearly undetectable. A turbidity plume was noticeable only a few meters below the dredge in Napias Creek and no plume was seen in Yankee Fork.
In this study Thomas evaluated the effects of a 3″ dredge in Gold Creek near Missoula, Montana.
“The concentration of suspended sediment was greatest at the dredge outflow and decreased rapidly as the heavier particles settled out. Suspended sediment was 1.8 mg/liter 30.5 meters below the dredge, indicating a return to ambient levels…These data indicated that the bulk of the sediment stirred up by the dredging was re-deposited within 6-11 meters of the dredge.”
“Deposited sediment decreased exponentially downstream with the distance from the dredging.”
“The immediate effect of suction dredging was to reduce the number of all species of insects in the area dredged. The effect was very localized. No significant change in abundance was found downstream from the dredged section for any taxonomic group…The number of insects in the dredged section increased 1 month after dredging, even when the numbers in the control and downstream sections decreased – indicating most aquatic insects find dredged areas to be suitable habitat.”
“Intergravel permeability apparently did increase slighlty in the dredged section after dredging. However this difference was not significant.”
“The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of one small dredge operated for a relatively short period of time. The effects seemed to be small, very localized habitat modifications that had a minimal effect on the stream community.”
The Prussian Study, conducted under contract to the US EPA is the only known study to evaluate the effects on water quality from suction dredging in regards to trace metals. The study also evaluated turbidity and the effects on aquatic insects. This was also one of the few studies to evaluate the effects of what are considered large dredges: an 8″ and a 10″ dredge.
The concluions of the study include:
“Dredge operations had no discernable effect on alkalinity, hardness, or specific conductance of water in the Fortymile. Of the factors we measured, the primary effects of suction dredging on water chemistry of the Fortymile River were increased turbidity, total filterable solids, and copper and zinc concentrations downstream of the dredge. These variables returned to upstream levels within 80-160 meters downstream.”
The results from this sampling revealed a relatively intense, but localized, decline in water clarity during the time the dredge was operating.
The impact of the dredge piles relative to the width of the Fortymile River was small. After one year, dredge piles at Site 1 had largely disappeared following the scouring flows that accompany snow melt.
Macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity were greatly reduced in the first 10m below the dredge at Site 1 relative to the upstream reference site. The abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates returned to values seen at the reference site by 80-160 meters downstream. Recovery of macroinvertebrate diverstiy appeared to be substantial.
The results from Resurrection Creek indicated that there was no difference in the macroinvertebrate community between the mining area and the locations downstream.”
“Effects of suction dredging commonly appear to be minor and local.”
This study fundamentally re-looks previous studies and comes to the same conclusions that suction dredges can kill un-eyed salmonid eggs; re-colonization of benthic invertebrates is rapid; and most effects from suction dredging are temporary and local.
This report adds nothing new to the research it only reviews previous research and makes a few recommendations for future studies.
This study was prepared under contract to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is one of the most extensive studies at 147 total pages. The authors studied the effects of various sized dredges on Canyon Creek in Trinity County California.
The studies demonstrated that the impacts of suction dredge mining on fish and habitat were moderate at the current level. The impacts were seasonal and site specific. The current regulations controlling dredge aperature and size and season appear adequate to protect habitat, but careful monitoring of mining activity is advised.”
This study was prepared under contract to the Washington State Department of Ecology, Environmental Assessment Program. This study evaluated the trace metal impact of suction dredging on the Similkameen River in Washington. It is more thorough than the Fortymile Study.
The study specifically evaluated the effects of suction dredging on levels of arsenic, copper, lead and zinc in the water column. The report concludes:
Results showed that the metals concentrations discharged from small-scale gold dredges are not a significant toxicity concern for aquatic life in the Similkameen River. Although this activity will exacerbate exceedances of arsenic human health criteria, it would take very large numbers of dredges to effect a 10% change in the river’s arsenic levels, even at low-flow conditions.
Based on analyzing 14 effluents and 27 plume samples, it appears that small-scale gold dredges have little or no potential to cause exceedances of aquatic life criteria in the Similkameen River.
The metals concentrations measured in gold dredge effluents during the present study were at or below aquatic life criteria. Therefore, criteria exceedances would not be anticipated in the Similkameen River, regardless of the number of dredges operating.
As the name of this study implies the purpose was to determine what happens to mussels if effected by suction dredging.
The study was conducted in two different areas: Mill Creek and the Similkameen River.
On Mill Creek the study found mussels had a 100% survivability rate of being entrained (sucked up) and all mussels were able to extract themselves from burial of up to 40cm of dredge tailings.
On the Similkameen River the study found a 100% survival rate (and recovery rate) of all mussels which were entrained by the dredge. The study involved simulated entrainment and placement on top of a simulated tailings pile. The mussels were observed for one week and all mussels were able to re-orient themselves and begin feeding after six days.
The Similkameen Study also found from 6% to 13% of mussels which were buried under dredge piles could suffer mortality.
At 89 pages this Master’s Thesis is another very thorough evaluation of the effects of suction dredging. The study evaluated a twenty mile length of Canyon Creek with dredge sizes ranging from 2″ to 6″.
“Turbidity and TSS levels decreased with distance below the dredge. Values 50 meters below the dredge were 2 to 3 times higher than that of the control, but at 100 meters below values returned to normal levels.”
“Sediment deposited decreased with distance below the dredge, average deposited sediment ranged widely between dredges.”
Substrate embeddedness generally increased below dredge sites in the local area.
Minor scour and fill occurred at all dredge sites ranging 6-10%.
There was no statistical difference in young steelhead population counts above the dredge, below the dredge or at control sites indicating the suction dredging operation had no measurable effect.
The normal annual flows at Canyon Creek were adequate to siperse dredge tailing piles and fill in dredge holes. Less than 9% of the holes and tailings from the 1984 mining year were visible at the start of the 1985 season.
“Most streams with mobile beds and good annual flushing flows shold be able to remove the instream pocket and pile creations of suction dredges, although regulated (dams) streams with controlled flows may not.
“In Canyon Creek, several spawning surveys located approximately 60 salmonid redds in the study area, but none were within a dredge tailing pile.
“Suction dredge mining did not appear to influence the locations of adult anadromous salmonid summer-holding areas.”
“Although distinct to even the most casual observer, dredge plumes in Canyon Creek were probably of little direct consequence to fish and invertebrates…In general, dredge turbidity plumes were highly localized and occurrred during midday which is not a peak feeding peeriod for steelhead.”
Fish living space may be reduced within the first few meters below the dredge, but just upstream a new pool is created by the cone-shaped dredge hole. During the study, young steelhead, dace and suckers were observed in active and abandoned dredge holes.
“A high level of suction dredging was evident in Canyon Creek, but adverse effects on aanadromous fish habitat were minimal to moderate.
R2 Resources, 2006, White Paper on Suction Dredging for State of WashingtonThis paper is one of the lesser known, but more thorough evaluations of suction dredging. At 164 pages it is second only to the 2012 California EIR in page length. It was done under contract to the Washington Department of Ecology. It is essentially an environmental impact report of the effects and provides a great single point of reference for suction dredging impacts. This study provides a good review and summary of previous research but adds nothing new to the existing research.
This article is originally posted on and is property of American Mining Rights. Original article can be found here>> The Actual Dredging Studies Support Miner’s Arguments
March 21, 2017, Energy and Natural Resources Senate Committee Public Hearing on House Bill 591 Relative to suction Dredging in the surface waters of the state. This bill was introduce under the premise that suction dredging was harmful to the environment and fish habitat. This bill would prohibit all motorized prospecting as well as rocker boxes. Gold prospectors assemble at the State House in Concord New Hampshire to testify in opposition to this bill, gold prospectors came prepared. Over the last several decades scientific studies have been conducted in numerous states by and or for government agencies such the US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Fish and Wildlife of California and Washington State just to name a few, and peer reviewed. There were a number of these studies presented to the Committee as well as summaries of these studies prepared by two respected Scientist in this field. All of these studies come to the same conclusion that small scale suction dredging’s impact on the environment and fish habitat is less than significant. The Army Corps of Engineers states that any dredge less than a 6″ nozzle size impact on the environment is “De Minimus”. There was a lot of great testimony from prospectors you can hear the entire hearing here: Senate Committee Public Hearing HB 591.
If you can’t play the hearing here is the summary report of the hearing: Summary Report Public Hearing the audio is far better since this is just a summary.
I commend these Senators for their integrity and honesty, they weighed the facts and based their decision on the facts presented. Their recommendation to the Senate was that HB 591 was inexpedient to legislate. On March 29, 2017 the senate met and voted on HB 591 based on the recommendation of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and HB 591 was officially killed.
Legislation should be based on facts, scientific, peer reviewed facts and not on assumptions, opinion or conjecture or even lies. Even the opinion of a professional such as a college professor or a biologist in the field, while this opinion may be the basis of a hypothesis, until that hypothesis is proven by scientific study and peer reviewed, is still nothing more than an opinion. The Senators of New Hampshire based their decision on the truth, unlike legislators of other states that pander to special interest groups, I will leave it up to the reader as to why they would pander to these special interest groups.
The Senators of New Hampshire give me hope that our form of government still works the way it should, with integrity and honesty, at least in one state. LIVE FREE OR DIE!!!
Was April 2013. That was the month and year I kicked off Oro Expeditions. It was also the year I ended a 30 year career driving a truck across this great country. It was kinda funny and ironic how that all ended and maybe I will tell more of that story someday but for now I am going to start this “nutshell” with a beginning instead of an ending.
The first Expedition kicked off without glamour. I gathered up all of my basic camping gear along with a weeks worth of food and plenty of clean clothes. The last thing to be loaded into the “Nugget Buggy” was everything I owned to prospect for gold. It was a short list. 2 5 gallon buckets, a short-handled round pointed shovel, a home-made 1/2 in. classifier, and my lucky gold pan given to me as a gift for joining a famous gold club. The last thing on the list was the directory of all the places in the US this club had the rights to prospect and mine for gold.
On the 14th of April, 2013, early in the afternoon, two things happened at the same time. I pulled out of the driveway in western Maryland to begin Oro Expedition 13, a dream of mine for sometime come true and at the same time on the same day a cute little puppy was born that would drop into my life 7 months later in central California during a Christmas blizzard.
I spent 13 months on the gold trail that first year with only one 4 day stay at the house for my wife’s birthday. I traveled to quite a few south-eastern states including North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee all of which were abundant with the shiny yellow stuff along with numerous different semi precious stones of all colors and shapes.
After many rain filled days spent working the small streams of the east my operation was able to move to the eleven western states in pursuit of much larger gold and much more plentiful gold.
Starting in Colorado and working my way across to Oregon I was able to prospect and find gold every time I crossed a state line. Landing in southwest Oregon and then working my way south as September turned into November, I followed the gold trail to central California high in the Sierra Nevada.
The end of one year and the beginning of a new one also felt like something new for Oro Expeditions was about to start as I made my way back to Maryland in late January of 2014.
I’m not sure where to start with the “now” part of this story so I will begin with what I know about my physical well-being and how it may or may not affect the 2017 gold and gemstone season and beyond.
I have had a history of back trouble since my early twenties when I was involved in a serious fall from a carnival ride I was working on. Then in 2001 I was struck by lightning and of course the back took the worst of it. Then back in 2006 I injured the lower back bad enough I couldn’t walk or sit up straight for almost a week. Once again somewhere around 2015 while helping a friend I blew multiple disks out and found out what lifetime chronic pain feels like.
I have been on a pain program for over a year and the meds I use to get pain relief work well. These are meds I will be on for the rest of my life unless something better is invented. The use of cannabis is a large part of my medical battle with pain along with other problems that use letters to describe them. THC heals them all.
My right shoulder was recently operated on to remove bone spurs and other fun stuff like shortening my collarbone and relocation of my bicep muscle. The good news is it is healing nicely and will be ready for the coming season.
Once again I regress. Back to the season at hand.
I look ahead to the 2017 gold and gemstone season and I see an Expedition that could be the biggest one yet and also one that could be worthy of a spot on one of the reality TV channels. The plan includes multiple locations in the lower 48 along with plans for at least 1 trip up north to the Yukon and interior Alaska. Thanks to the arthritis in my back it might be my last chance to see the Land of The Midnight Sun.
Something I want to focus on this year is a program that involves teaching people, especially children, how to prospect and pan for gold. We will be promoting this wherever we may go and will be posting locations and dates as early as possible. If you check the upcoming schedule we will be posting and we are in your area you will be able to come hang out with us in Gold Camp and learn the basics of finding the shiny yellow metal.
We will be focusing on creating two permanent spaces which will allow us to work year round depending on the season. One will be located on our desert claims located in central Arizona. The other will be somewhere in the northwest with possibilities in Canada and Alaska. Returning back to a plan from 2013 and the first Expedition, I would like to have the whole north south program located in the lower 48 states with future Expeditions expanding northward and also world-wide to exotic locations like “down under”, and also South America. Big ideas or BIG plans to be turned into reality? You decide. For me and my lovely wife we believe it is all doable and more.
I started out calling this piece a “Nutshell” version but I always get a little carried away with excitement when it comes to warm weather and the pursuit of gold and other shiny things so bear with me … hehe
Article reprinted from Appalachian Prospectors Gold Prospecting Adventures
As many of you know I am a gold prospector and if you don’t know, you know it now. I enjoy the great outdoors by prospecting for gold, I would hike miles and miles, over mountain ranges just to get to a good gold prospecting location. For me to hike I need a destination and a purpose. The same with camping, I will camp in the worst weather, for days and even weeks for gold prospecting. Gold prospecting is my serenity, just like fishing is to some, or hunting to others it is my passion. I like to prospect in New Hampshire, and I love to dredge for gold. I love New Hampshire, especially the state moto “live Free Or Die”. This is the state I was born in, I call New Hampshire my home state, most of my relatives still live in New Hampshire, my ancestors settled in New Hampshire while it was still the Massachusetts colony, one day I plan on going home. I want to spend my retirement in the mountains prospecting and dredging for gold.
Earlier this week I read an article in the Concord Monitor online titled: Bill would halt dredging machinery in N.H. gold prospecting , my blood pressure sky rocketed and I thought I was going to have a stroke because what I read was a proposed bill, HB 591 to ban gold dredging in New Hampshire. The entire bill is based on misconceptions about small scale suction gold dredging, possibly even lies. What happened to live free or die? There goes my whole plan for retirement. I would like to clear the air on some of these misconceptions about gold dredging especially those listed in this news article.
“There’s a surprising amount of damage that can be done by one of these things,” Claims Rep. Lee Oxenham, a Plainfield Democrat, which by the way indroduced and sponsored this bill. What I want to know is what is this surprising amount of damage. What is the merit for this bill? I don’t want to hear opinion and conjecture or flat out lies, show me the data that supports your claim. what I need to see are studies and or reports that have been peer reviewed, performed on the practice of small scale suction dredging because the ones that I have read prove otherwise.
It is obvious that who ever provided the information for this article knows very little to nothing about the subject of gold prospecting , gold dredging or anything associated with the practice thereof. The article states and I quote ” The bill also would outlaw similar processes and technologies with names like “rocker box” and “highbanking,” which suck up stones and water from steambeds via small gasoline-powered pumps and filter them in some way to help the users spot tiny flecks of gold that might be there.” Rocker boxes and highbankers don’t suck up stones you shovel into them. Rocker boxes don’t even have a motor on them it is a hand operated device that you pour water in with a pail. How does legislation get introduced on anything without even the basic facts even being known and better yet how does it pass a House vote? Something is wrong with our government.
Here is another quote from the article: “New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services says these processes stir up too much silt and mud, “releasing fine sediments back into the stream” that can harm life in the waterway.” Flat lazy water is where mud and silt covers the bottom, rivers on flat land, swamps, ponds and lakes is where you would find this condition, this is not at all ideal for gold dredging. We don’t dredge here. What is ideal is a river that drops at least 10 feet per mile which means faster moving water, silt and mud does not settle in these areas for us to dredge up, we need to dredge in gravel, rocks where only the heavy materials, minerals like magnetite, hematite, garnet and gold will settle, the lite materials have already been washed away by nature.
Another quote from the article:
“The turbidity can go for thousands of yards – it’s not just localized,” said Oxenham. “It’s disruptive for fish, insects, the benthic community in all its forms.” There are occasions where you may dredge into a pocket of clay and there is a moment of noticeable turbidity, it is not constant, travels about 50 to 100 yards and 100 is stretching it, not thousands. Notice in the picture below how clear the water is, this is typically how it runs.
Yet another quote: “Further, she added, the noise and smell of the machines “can drive those searching for the unmediated, unspoiled experience of our natural wonders out of the state, along with their tourist dollars.” Yes there is the noise of a small engine, the size of a lawn mower engine, a push mower not a riding one. What smell? This makes it sound like we are running a paper mill out here and we are driving all the tourist away, simply not true. We have just as much right to the wild as a hiker or any one else who is recreating out in the state of New Hampshire. I am spending my money too, on campgrounds or other lodging, groceries, restaurants, gas stations, ice cream stands not to mention the $50.00 I pay for the permit to dredge.
New Hampshire residents should be outraged by this legislation because it is all based on fiction and if this is how legislators deal with a matter such as this imagine how legislation is passed on matters that you really care about. Maybe they should focus their efforts more on things like the heroin epidemic in the state.
If you like to prospect for gold and dredge in New Hampshire then please stand up for your rights and attend the public hearing that is going to be held by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee which the date and place is yet to be determined. You should be able to find the date here when it is determined: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/committees/legislation/committee_billstatus.aspx?l=368&cc=S38&r=1
CALL TO ACTION OREGON:
A new bill has been created to ban all forms of mining in Oregon. They are even declaring it an emergency to pass this ban.
Here is an excerpt from the bill:
Senate Bill 3
Sponsored by Senator COURTNEY (Presession filed.)
The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor’s brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced.
Modifies area where moratorium on mining using motorized equipment applies.
Exempts certain mining operations from exclusion certificate requirements.
Operative January 2, 2019, excludes certain upland placer mining operations from moratorium and requires certain upland placer mining operators to hold operating permit. Requires motorized equipment used for certain upland placer mining operations to be operated only during certain hours. Punishes upland placer mining operation outside certain hours or without permit coverage by maximum of $2,000 fine.
Establishes permitting requirements for motorized in-stream placer mining. Requires Director of Department of State Lands and Director of Department of Environmental Quality to enter memorandum of understanding allowing Department of Environmental Quality to issue certain removal fill permits. Authorizes Department of Environmental Quality to issue consolidated water quality and removal fill permits for motorized in-stream placer mining. Places certain restrictions on motorized in-stream placer mining.
Punishes motorized in-stream placer mining without permit coverage by maximum of $2,000 fine.
Requires motorized equipment used for motorized in-stream placer mining to be inspected at aquatic invasive species check stations.
Provides that motorized in-stream placer mining permitting, use restriction, inspection and penalty provisions become operative January 3, 2021.
Requires consultation to determine whether state and federal mining programs can be better coordinated.
Declares emergency, effective on passage.
An emergency? You must stand up to horrendous ideological bills like this or be steamrolled by their hatred for public lands, small miners, fishermen, hikers, hunters and property owners.
We urge you to read this bill and oppose it. We also urge anyone in Oregon to attend the public hearing this coming Monday at the State Capital in Salem.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
Oregon State Capitol
900 Court Street NE, Room 347, Salem, Oregon 97301 Phone: 503-986-1751
Here is the entire bill:
Oregon, rise up and defeat this tyrannical bill.
Here we are in a new year with a new government settling into place in Washington DC, and a new set of challenges in front of us. Yes, it is great that our new President is pro-American business and willing to do what he can (which is a lot!), to Make America Great Again, But ‘We The People’ still need to do our part and be actively involved in the process. You can’t sit back and expect that everyone else will get it done. We The People have spoken and We The People must act on our convictions. It’s time to stay involved, write letters to your Congressmen and Senators and make phone calls. A hand written letter is worth thousands of form letters! There are still fights in progress such as the Eagle Mountain land annex where the National Park Service is working hand in hand with BLM to take 22,000 acres of mineral rich land into the National Park to be locked away. Get involved and write letters. The comment period closes Feb. 16th Eagle Mountain National Park Land Annex Comments Page. Even in a national emergency where our enemies refuse to sell us any rare earth minerals that are crucial to our national defense, once locked in the National Park, the minerals may as well not exist. Even if the land could be moved back into Public Domain, it would takes years to develop the mines so as to be useful in the defense of our nation.
We have an update to our dredge lawsuits here in California. It appears Judge Ochoa has for the second time cancelled the upcoming hearing on the CEQA and “one subject” motions, this time pushing the hearing out to July 12, 2017.
You all may recall that these motions were initially to be heard in January 2016, then stayed on account of the Rinehart case, then set for April 21st 2017, then cancelled at Judge Ochoa’s instance and moved to May 12th 2017. Although we are very confident that we can get the CEQA process and the 2012 regulations thrown out due to the faulty science and violations of the process by the State of California, that won’t get us back in the water dredging due to the water board permitting process lumped on by the legislature.
We do have a solution that will remove all states from regulating unreasonably on Federally managed lands and give the power back to the MMAC affiliated mining districts.
We are working feverishly to get new legislation in place that will put more teeth in the 1872 Mining Law for the miners. This must happen within the next 2 years while the Republican majority is in place. Do your part to help us Take It Back And Keep It! Renew your supporting membership in PLP and make a donation above your normal membership to help us make the extra push supporting the Mining District revival under the expert guidance of the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council! The power of the mining districts is beginning to be realized in Congress. Our advisors were in DC for the inauguration. Joe Martori, Clark Pearson and Scott Harn, all MMAC advisors are in Washington DC right now for a rigorous week of work on our behalf to get our Federal legislation through and signed by President Trump! You can read the bill here: House Resolution from the Minerals and Mining Advisory Council.
PLP volunteers will be set up at the big Quartzite, Arizona Gold and Mineral show Feb. 10-12, so come out and show your support! We will have gold bags for sale, a panning area, PLP T-shirts, expert prospecting advice, Challenge Cards, PLP bumper stickers and speaking at the show. We are excited to be there! Find out all about the show here: https://quartzsitegoldshowcom.wordpress.com/
Though our membership voted in new By-Laws last year which we are now operating under, the Board Members that resigned last July are still having their charade meetings, pretending to be PLP Board Members at Keene Engineering’s office. We are saddened to announce that because of these actions, by GPAA’s request, PLP will not be allowed to set up at any of their events until GPAA is satisfied that the Board dispute has been resolved. As far as we are concerned, the dispute was resolved when the PLP Membership overwhelmingly approved the new By-Laws last fall. We will miss so many of you we consider our friends at these shows, but will keep in touch other ways like through our newsletters, website, new shows we’ve never worked at before, and “out there” in the gold fields.
We are continuing to fight for miner’s rights, and are still Plaintiffs in the two dredging cases in San Bernardino. Your board of directors are all volunteer! Please help us help the mining community by renewing membership and making an extra donation.
Until next time, Let’s Keep Taking it Back while we Make Mining and Multiple Use Public Land Great Again!
Source: Public Lands For The People
The U.S. Forest Service proposed nearly 18,000 acres of land in the Black Hills National Forest to be “withdrawn from mineral entry,” which means no new mining claims would be allowed.
The proposal was recorded in the Federal Register on Sept. 24, 2015, but Sam Griner, a member of the Northern Hills Prospectors — a local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America — said he wouldn’t have even known about the proposed withdrawal had he not scanned the Forest Service’s Schedule of Planned Action (SOPA) website.
“They were surprised that anybody had caught it,” Griner said. “They expected it to just go through. The Travel Management Plan … just went through and nobody knew to comment on it. It went unchecked and nobody made any comments.”
The Travel Management Plan that the Forest Service issued back in 2010 shut down roads, affecting area prospectors but primarily impacting hunters, Griner said.
After learning about the proposal to designate nearly 18,000 acres as new Research Natural Areas (RNA) and Botanical Areas (BA), Griner took action action, attending public meetings and sending letters of opposition to nearly every agency and public official he could think of. The public comment period for the proposed mineral withdrawal closed Dec. 23, 2015.
Griner attended a National Forest Advisory Board Meeting on March 16 at the Mystic Ranger District to oppose the withdrawal. During the meeting, Deputy Forest Supervisor Jerry Krueger said that if approved, the mineral withdrawal would last for two decades. After 20 years, the Forest Service would have to reapply with the Bureau of Land Management for another withdrawal, according to the meeting minutes. Because BLM manages the minerals within the Black Hills National Forest, it — along with the Secretary of the Interior — must give approval for the withdrawal.
In response to Griner’s land closure concerns, Former Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Craig Bobzien said, “What we are also doing is preserving. During the Forest Planning process in 2005, we found that a number of these areas should be preserved,” according to the meeting minutes. But, Krueger said the plan to withdraw the various sites from mineral entry goes back as far as the late ’90s.
Northern Hills Prospectors President James Van Hout said the Forest Service’s response to the prospector’s concerns has been disingenuous, at best.
“They just give us lip service, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll take your comments and concerns and we’ll discuss them,’ ” Van Hout said. “We know exactly where they went. They went into file 13 because they weren’t what they wanted to hear, and we know that. We’re not stupid.”
Van Hout said the Forest Service geologist treated prospectors with the same attitude during a meeting with the agency last October about the areas where mining would be banned.
“Their geologist had the gall and thought we were just stupid. He made the statement that the U.S. Geological Survey says there’s no minable minerals,” Van Hout said. “I plainly asked him, ‘Have you tested it personally?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Then how do you know there’s not?’ Boots on the ground is the only way you’re going to find out. Then, I asked him how old the report was. The ’50s? And, he didn’t deny it.”
Furthermore, the report related to commercial mining, not prospecting and small-scale mining, Van Hout said.
“Basically, the report was saying there’s no commercially viable minerals there, meaning no large mining company is going to want to go in and mine it because it us such rough territory and terrain that it would be cost prohibitive for them to go in and mine,” Van Hout said. “But for the small miner, there’s lots of gold in there. Seventeen of 22 of the largest nuggets that came out the Black Hills came out of the major area they want to close.”
At the same October meeting in Rapid City, Krueger said: “We need to take special measures to protect them [Black Hills] in terms of what can occur there, and so one of the concerns is commercial mineral withdrawal entry,” according to a news report by KEVN Black Hills FOX.
Krueger later said that it was not the Forest Service’s intention to keep out the small-scale miner, but that because of the way the mining laws are written, there is no distinction between small-scale miners and commercial miners.
“Initially, we thought that by doing the mineral withdrawal that it would not affect the recreational prospecting groups,” Krueger said. “When we pursued that —again through the public meetings — we were asked to take a look at that through legal channels. The mineral withdrawal covered any mineral withdrawal within these designated areas, and that included recreational prospecting.”
Although prospectors may not feel like their voices are being heard, Krueger said they managed to get the withdrawal area down from nearly 18,000 acres to 11,000 acres by negotiating terms of the contract with BLM.
“During the public meetings, which included members of your group, we received feedback that they would like us to pursue in terms of the legal description,” Krueger said. “We’re trying to capture a non-linear polygon with a square block legal description.”
Initially, BLM instructed the Forest Service to submit the proposed withdrawal using a minimum size of 40-acre blocks, so everywhere a 40-acre block touched the perimeter of the withdrawal, the Forest Service had to include that 40 acres. But, the Forest Service was able to negotiate the legal description down to 2.5-acre blocks, Krueger said.
“It really helped us all out. We could much more accurately capture the research footprint of the Research Natural Area or Botanical Area using a much smaller legal description,” Krueger said.
According to the Forest Service website, the RNA areas “were selected because of their relatively pristine nature and form part of a national network of ecological areas designated in perpetuity for non-manipulative research, education and biodiversity conservation. Botanical Areas were selected because of unique biological features and rare natural communities.”
One of these “unique biological features” includes the calypso bulbosa, also known as the “fairy slipper orchid,” which has a G5 national rating and a S3 state rating, according to the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks website. The scale runs from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most plentiful and 1 being the scarcest. The flower has held a G5 ranking for more than a decade, according to the Forest Service website, which noted that the species is “secure, widespread and abundant” in the United States.
Still, these Cinderella sounding flora are being used as a premise to ban new mining claims.
“Among those are the lesser yellow lady slipper, which is one of my personal favorites,” Black Hills National Forest Botanist Chelsea Monks said in an interview with South Dakota Public Broadcast. “But, the neat thing about these areas is not just the species that are there, but the assemblage of species that are there, meaning there are species that are co-occurring that don’t normally occur together. So, that’s one of the values that we designated these areas to preserve.”
Monks is responsible for taking public comments on the proposed withdrawal and oversees the Botanical Areas within the Black Hills National Forest. The orchids may not be endangered, but they are a favorite meal for deer, Van Hout said.
“Deer love to eat [the fairy slipper] because of the vanilla aroma to it,” Van Hout said. “You can go down one draw, and there will be huge numbers of this flower. You can go over the next ridge into the next draw and you won’t find any or just a few, so they go into those and go, ‘Oh dear, this is a scarce flower.’ It’s ridiculous.”
Krueger said there is no actual risk of endangerment for the plant life in these areas. Instead, the main purpose for withdrawal is scientific study and preservation.
“So I guess, in the current management scheme there is no threat. All we’re looking to do with this is to remove the potential for development, which would disturb the sites,” Krueger said.
The Forest Service currently has five Research Natural Areas and eight Botanical Areas in and around the Black Hills National Forest. Four of the five RNAs were designated in September 2011, including: Hay Creek in Crook County, Wyoming; Fanny/Boles in Custer County, South Dakota; and Canyon City and North Fork Castle Creek in Pennington County, South Dakota.
Withdrawal means that no new mining claims can be staked, but creating RNAs and BAs have the added limitation of only allowing non-motorized transportation, meaning these areas can only be reached via horseback or on foot, according to the Black Hills National Forest’s online brochure titled “What are Research Natural Areas and Botanical Areas?” This problem with access also came up in 2010 when the Forest Service issued its new Travel Management Plan.
“What really ticked me off is that they won’t allow disabled people to get to the claim. Everybody else can get to the claim, but it’s the disabled people who are a part of that club who can’t get to the claim, and the Forest Service isn’t doing anything about it,” Griner said. “That’s what really put me over the top and what really drove me.”
However, Krueger said the proposed withdrawal to designate RNA and BA areas would not modify the existing Travel Management Plan.
“I don’t have a map that overlays the current Travel Management Plan over the Botanical Areas or the Research Natural Areas, but I can tell you — knowing how many trails we have in the forest and how many roads we have — that I’m quite sure that there are existing trails or roads in those areas.”
Griner has enlisted the help of the American Mining Rights Association to deal with this potential withdrawal. In fact, Griner was one of the first miners to call on AMRA for support three years ago when the Forest Service first started shutting down roads and access to mining claims in his area, said AMRA President Shannon Poe.
“The Forest Service is trying to claim all these different flowers, and it’s all pushed by the environmental movement,” Poe said. “They just want to close all this land where these people have mining claims. They’ve been gating and locking and blocking. It’s the same story over and over again. It is frustrating, because he’s reached out to senators, representatives, and he’s not getting a lot of help or traction. Something we’re going to bring a lot more attention to moving forward is putting pressure on lawmakers to step up and help the people they’re supposed to represent.”
Aside from getting AMRA involved, Van Hout said it is important to recruit fellow outdoor users.
“We need to start getting the horseback riding groups and biking groups and hunters and fisherman involved,” Van Hout said. “Mining is the main target, but they’re a target, too. They started with the Travel Management Plan. The hunters used to be able to drive to their certain areas and then walk around and hunt, but now have to walk in two or three miles to get to their favorite hunting grounds. I don’t know if you’ve tried to drag a deer or elk three miles … They’ve hit the hunters a little bit, but they’ll hit everybody pretty soon.”
According to the Forest Service’s Schedule of Planned Actions, a decision is to be made concerning the ban on new mining claims September next year.
“September 2017 is two years from the date the Notice of Application for Withdrawal was published in the Federal Register and is the date by which the BLM should make a decision of whether or not to withdraw the areas,” Monks stated in an email correspondence with Griner on Aug. 25. “Right now the Forest Service interdisciplinary team is working on analysis for this project and does not yet have findings. Once we have completed our analysis, the Regional Forester will send a recommendation to the BLM and they will make the final decision.”
The butting of heads with federal agencies has been rampant across the West in the past few years, but Van Hout said it has never been a problem in the Black Hills until now, and he definitely sees a shift in dynamics, he said.
“We never had to deal with this … The Black Hills have always been pretty much conservative. You did what you want to do as long as you weren’t stepping on anybody’s toes or causing problems. They left everybody alone,” Van Hout said. “The new Forest Service — they’re starting to close us down now. They haven’t closed us yet, but they’re trying.”
Griner said he feels stabbed in the back by an agency that is supposed to be representative of the people and working for the people.
“With some people, you give them a bow and arrow for a present and they give you a T-shirt with a bulls-eye on it,” Griner said.
Sarah Reijonen is a freelance writer based in California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST
Rules & Restrictions
Activities allowed in Recreational National Areas (RNA):
• Dispersed Recreation: Non-motorized / Non-mechanized dispersed use including hunting and fishing is allowed without developments such as trails or signs
• Research: Research methods are non-destructive and non-manipulative.
• Education: Opportunities are available to learn about natural processes using methods that are non-destructive and non-manipulative.
• Transportation: Foot and horse travel only
• Vegetation Management: Vegetation management including livestock grazing is used only as needed to conserve the biological characteristics for which the RNA was established using methods with the least impact on desired RNA ecological processes. All lease applications will have “no surface occupancy” stipulation.
• No mineral material permits will be issued.
Activities allowed in Botanical Areas (BA):
• Non-motorized dispersed recreation
• On-road motorized vehicles use is authorized in some areas; however other areas are
designated Roadless Areas
• Minimal timber harvest only when necessary to maintain, restore or enhance ecological values
• Livestock grazing if it does not conflict with the ecological values
• No new mineral material permits
— Source: Black Hills National Forest website
Article as featured in the Pick & Shovel Gazette October-November 2016 edition
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