California’s newly adopted state budget cuts not only state health care, welfare and education programs, but could wind up banning dredge mining forever in the waters of the “Golden State”.
Author: Dorothy Kosich
Posted: Friday , 29 Jun 2012
RENO (MINEWEB) – California Gov. Jerry Brown has approved the state’s newly adopted $92 billion state budget which contains a rider which continues the state’s moratorium on suction dredge mining until the state adopts new rules which “fully mitigate all identified significant environmental impacts.”
The rider also directs California’s Department of Fish and Game, which regulates suction dredge mining, to work with public health, water and tribal authorities in a review of the practice.
Opponents contend the new rider essentially bans the practice in California waters forever.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brown both approved temporary moratoriums on suction dredge mining in 2009 and again in 2011. Legislative analysis found the practice cost California taxpayers more money that it earns; costing $1 million in 2009.
The new law requires a fee structure be in place that will cover all costs to administer the regulatory program. Brown does not have line-item veto power in authority over the rider.
“After efforts to reach a compromise were rejected by the miners, we had no choice but to pursue the moratorium. Now we can rest assured that our cultural and fisheries resources are no longer at risk from dredge miners,” said Leaf Hillman, director of natural resources for the Karuk Tribe.
The tribe has successfully sued the U.S. Forest Service to force the agency to consult with wildlife agencies prior to granting Notice of Intent to weekend hobbyists using suction dredges to mine for gold in the Coho Salmon critical habitat in northern California. The tribe also sued the California Department of Fish and Game, resulting in a moratorium on gold dredging operations throughout the state of California.
No suction dredge mining may occur in the Six Rivers or Klamath National Forests until California’s temporary ban expired in 2016. The new rider signed by Governor Brown now extends the moratorium beyond 2016 if needed.
In a recent news release, Gold Pan California, a supply shop located in Northern California’s San Francisco Bay Area, declared, “Through secret use of budget trailer bills, legislators are feverishly creating last-minute laws with no bill numbers and no accountability or fiscal responsibility for these new laws.”
Gold Pan California said the rider by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, extended the previous rider the lawmaker had inserted into the 2011 state budget, which enacted a temporary moratorium on suction dredge mining. The mining supply shop said the current budget rider language “would essentially ban the practice forever.”
It is estimated that there are 56,000 gold claims in California. In 2008 California issued about 3,500 permits for suction mining with about 18% of those miners earning a significant portion of income from gold dredging