Bill Could Bring Battle Over Gold Mining

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CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – A bill to ban certain forms of mining in Oregon has stirred up threats of a legal battle over suction dredging. The practice of using vacuums to gather gold from river beds is being targeted for its impact on fish and plant life.

A bill awaiting Governor’s signature – Senate Bill 838 – would place limitations on suction dredging for several years. The bill would also set aside funding into scientific research on the effects of suction dredging.

After a certain time period, if no long-term regulations can be figured out, the bill would call for an outright ban. Locals miners say if that happens, they plan to take the issue to court

“You know it might just seem like a little thing – gold miners,” said Dave McCracken, a professional suction dredger. “Who needs gold miners, you know? But I tell you what, it’s a fundamental.”

Suction dredging has become increasingly popular in Southwest Oregon. The number of permits given out has increased from about 650 in 2007 to nearly 2,500 in 2012.

“Gold prices have gone up. There’s a lot of people interested in it,” said McCracken. “There’s a lot of room in Oregon.”

But the practice has gone under fire for its impact on fish populations. Environmental groups say it disturbs the river beds that those fish use to spawn.

“One dredge in a three foot wide stream is a pretty big deal,” said KS Wild’s Robyn Jenssen. “And as a lot of us have seen out on the Rogue River there’s upwards of 30 dredges in one single area.”

Environmentalists say Oregon is behind the curve when it comes to regulating this practice. California instituted an outright ban, and Idaho has also set heavy restrictions.

“It’s kind of interesting that Oregon sits in this area and not protecting our iconic rivers and streams for the state,” said Jenssen.

But miners say they aren’t giving up easily. After California banned it, they challenged it in court and were able to score a temporary restraining order allowing them to continue mining. Now they say they’re prepared to do the same here.

“It’s our experience that once this moratorium goes in two years from now we’re not gonna get it back,” said McCracken.


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  1. Brian Cole says:

    It is easy to project a fear, yet altogether different to prove that it will happen. The Environmentalists employ projected fears in order to hault those things they deem unlikeable. Politics has become acustom to making laws based on projected fears. Kind of like the “Chicken Little….The Sky Is Falling” concept. If one were to study the historical mining methods of long past and recognize the HUGE impact that occurred as a result of those methods, one can come to realize that even those tremendous impacts did not destroy fish.

    The small scale dredge miners of today are incidental and have no adverse impact on fish given; the regulated dredge seasons observed by those obtaining the DSL permits. Basically the rafters, kayakers and others don’t like the dredges on the rivers and have made such a fuss that State Senator Bates has proposed a bill initiating further study into a dredge issue that has had extensive review per a similar Calif. environmentalist issue.

    I would offer that if one wants to really realize that placer mining has not destroyed fisheries all one has to do is look at the Yukon River or study the history of the Calif Gold Rush. These same areas are still bountiful with fish. The small scale placer miner utilizing a dredge to recover gold is incidental. Being an avid fisherman for over 50 years I can attest to the fact that the fish actually enjoy/like the dredge activity, as they take advantage of the resulting dispersed food, and actually cruise the dredge holes after the dredger leaves.

    I recall all the fuss given the Mt St Helens erruption and the devastating effect it would have on the fisheries. Needless to say the fuss was unworthy of fact….as the fish actually took advantage of the event and the fishery was not adversely effected.

    Rmember an old saying by our wise mothers: “Just because a spider looks bad does not mean it is a bad spider so we don’t want to always kill an ugly spider….sometimes the spider does good things for mankind”.

    Again I am an avid long time fisherman (prefering fly fishing), a gold miner (claim holder)utilizing a small scale dredge, and I have a geology background from the U of O. Just think of : “The Rogue River ran mud brown all summer last”…. as a result of the same environmentalists wanting the Gold Ray Dam removed. Did that destroy fish habitat or fish?
    Doubt it!….but it did not look pretty! A far greater amount of turbifdity was produced than all the Oregon dredgers combined.

    If the State passes any such laws there will be endless court challenges and the miners of today are prepared to utilize the Federally protected granted rights and extensive previous court cases to challenge the States’ right to dictate a form of mining method on Federal Public Domain. The State is limited in their authority.

  2. Art Waugh says:

    Dredgers remove lead, mercury, and other heavy toxic metals from waterways, not to mention taking out garbage and trash left by other users who refuse to pack out their own. This also loosens the gravels to make it easier for fish to form the redds. Dredging is already limited to a short season to keep away from eggs and fry. There have been at least five studies already done, 2 in California, two in Alaska and one is southwest Oregon that have found less than signifigant impact due to suction dredging.

    The sediment disturbed in all waters in the state in a year by all types of mining would not even make a dent in the sediment moved by one flood/highwater event on one small river during one storm.

    Dredgers and not allowed to block passage of other waterway users like boaters, rafters and fishermen.

    This is nothing more than a ploy by the elitists to keep everyone but themselves out of our lands. Next they will be going after the fishermen who support them in this as the fishermen will be the next big impact on fish.

    People need to pull their heads out of the sand and start finding out what is going on and not believe to media’s spin on everything

  3. tim says:

    You know when California banned dredging, where did all the dredgers from there go? Here to southern oregon. McCracken Himself is from California. I think if Oregon only issue permit’s to people who live in Oregon, there might not be a problem. I went out to the gold ray dam sight the first year after they took out the dam, almost every truck and car out there was from California. I mean what the hell? I live here and I cant even get into a sight because of everybody from California is hoggen up every sight there is. All the gold dredged out of there went right back to california, and we the Oregon dredgers here lost out . I dont think that Dave McCracken has squat to say about this, he dont even live in this state. Why don’t the news talk to somebody from Oregon?

    1. Andrea says:

      Thank you! Finally someone besides me sees where the problem is! We are a dredging family that has been affected by this issue. The Oregon dredgers are losing out and are about to really lose out because of the out-of-state dredgers!

  4. Tim says:

    I think we should put a bill into the gov, That only people who live in oregon and can prove it can dredge here. For people who dont live here, there permit should cost twice as much, and then tax the hell out of them on what they find. McCracken go back to california and fight for your rights there. One dredge on the river dont do much, but when you bring a careavan of dredges up here and take over the river, blocking Oregon dredgers from the river is not only wrong. But it get’s all of us looked at, Just look what is happening now, We live here, you don’t, go home we don’t want you guy’s here.

  5. Eyebrow says:

    Tim & Andrea…
    Your comments expose your short-sighted and narrow minded-ness. Dave Mac IS fighting the battle here in Califonia. The Enviro-fascists used lies, manipulation and political pressure to get us off the rivers. Now they have moved their circus to Oregon (and Idaho). We, yes, all of us, are in a war to preserve our unalienable rights. Andrea, these Enviro-nazis are OUR enemy, not your fellow dredgers.
    I have been to Oregon to dredge. I have to because it is my livelihood. All of the business owners that I patronize in Oregon are very friendly and appreciate my business. I have been on the Rogue when a bunch of Ca. dredgers were working along the river below the former Gold Ray dam site. Your comments are false! There is plenty of room for everyone, it’s a huge river. I thought this was a free country? I would hope that you both would quit being “haters” and join us in this battle to preserve our rights.

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