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Gold Hill miner suspected of illegal activity near Galice

By Chris Conrad
Mail Tribune

Federal law enforcement believes Gold Hill miner Clifford Randall Tracy, who was convicted for illegal mining on Sucker Creek in 2009, is at it again.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office in Medford has charged Tracy with illegal mining in the area of Galice Creek, about three miles outside Galice.

Tracy's trial is scheduled for Aug. 30 in the federal courthouse in Medford.

According to a federal affidavit, Tracy filed a notice with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to conduct a year-round mining operation on Galice Creek. His plan called for crossing the creek two times a day every other day for fuel and supplies for his mining claim.

Tracy also said he intended to cut trees from the area to make room for his claim.

The BLM requested that Tracy further explain his intentions because Galice Creek is a salmon-bearing stream that is used by the endangered coho salmon.

According to the BLM, Tracy ignored the agency's inquiries.

On June 16, two BLM geologists were working on Galice Creek when they noticed the stream was unusually clouded by sediment.

They followed the plume 1.5 miles and found it had originated from Tracy's claim.

Pictures provided by the BLM showed large mounds of excavated dirt piled around the claim, as well as a dredging pond, large excavator and a dump truck.

BLM officers responded to the site on June 17 and reportedly witnessed sediment from the claim sliding into the stream.

The officers attempted to serve Tracy with paperwork ordering him to halt the operation. They claim Tracy blew them off and climbed back on his excavator to continue pushing dirt around.

The BLM also noted that Tracy's claim had expanded 30 feet upstream within days of it being seen by the geologists.

The latest case is nearly a mirror image of Tracy's previous run-in with law enforcement.

In 2009, he was convicted of illegally mining Sucker Creek, a stream on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. He spent 12 days in jail rather than agree to stop.

Tracy told U.S. District Court Judge Own Panner at his sentencing he would continue to work claims on BLM-controlled property in the same drainage.

"This has been a complete violation of due process," he told Panner. "My right to minerals can't be circumscribed by any agency."

Court documents filed against Tracy in 2009 said he not only mined without permission, but continued to excavate his 4.75-acre claim after BLM officials warned him not to.

He illegally cut more than 20 trees up to 40 inches in diameter near Sucker Creek, dug two large pits on the site, dug in a road and released sediment into the stream, an important watershed for coho salmon.

George Sexton, the conservation director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, visited the Galice Creek claim recently and said it looks similar to the Sucker Creek operation two years ago.

"It's the same equipment, the same excavator, the same float and dredge," Sexton said. "This seems to be his pattern of practice."

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