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Mining

The 1872 Mining Law was passed only seven years after Congress abolished slavery and nearly five decades before women won the right to vote. It is surely time to update it.

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Tracy claim on Sucker Creek, 2010Illegal and poorly regulated mining activities are an increasing threat to the streams and forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou.

Governed by the 1872 Mining Act, mining on public forest lands in southwest Oregon and northwest California is taking a huge toll on water quality, at-risk fish habitat and terrestrial forest values.

Under the outdated 1872 Mining Act, public lands miners pay no royalties whatsoever for the valuable minerals they extract from lands that belong to all Americans, yet taxpayers are routinely left to pick up the tab to clean-up the damage and toxic waste miners often leave behind. Throughout the Klamath Siskiyous taxpayers are shelling out millions to mitigate and clean-up heavy metals and toxins from hundreds of abandoned mine sites on public lands.

This mining operation on Sucker Creek harmed water quality and Coho salmon before the miner was arrested and convicted in late 2009.

Many public lands miners refuse to abide by even the minimal environmental protections required by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Drain Creek Out-of-season mining, and illegal mining that directly harms at-risk salmon populations and water quality is becoming more and more common.

Shrinking land management law enforcement budgets and the increasing price of gold are fueling a rapid increase in illegal mining activities on public lands. Bulldozing through streams and salmon habitat; illegal diversion of creeks and streams; clearcutting of public forests; illegal road construction; and even violence and intimidation are becoming more and more common on federal mining claims on public lands.

The Defiance Mine From Above. photo by Barbara Ullian

KS Wild is working hard to rein-in widespread illegal mining on public lands. We are field checking mining activities and keeping a sharp eye out for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. We are reviewing and challenging new large-scale mining proposals on public lands throughout the region. We are helping land management agencies develop meaningful mining regulations and monitoring programs. Most importantly, we are working for reform of the 1872 Mining Act to change a system that encourages miners to tear-up public lands and leaves taxpayers holding the clean-up bill.

Download a fact sheet, "The Klamath-Siskiyou & the New Gold Rush: What's the deal on the front lines?" by clicking here.