New Proposed Legislation Would Further Restrict Oregon Instream Placer Mining

Oregon agencies and environmental groups are preparing another round of legislation to eliminate instream placer mining in Oregon. Oregon Mining Association (OMA) just received a draft legislative concept that was put together by a work group led by Senator Alan Bates, the main proponent of Senate Bill 838 (2013), the Oregon law that imposed the moratorium on instream placer mining along most waterbodies in western Oregon.

The work group crafting the proposed legislation included representatives of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Oregon Division of State Lands (DSL), the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), and Rogue Advocates, an Oregon environmental organization. Representatives of the mining industry were not invited to participate.

Unfortunately, the draft legislation is so onerous that it appears to impose a nearly complete moratorium on instream placer mining statewide. The OMA has already been in contact with DEQ and DOGAMI regarding the proposed legislation and will submit detailed comments and testimony on the legislative concept.

The proposed legislation consolidates authority over all instream placer mining to DEQ. All upland placer mining will be subject to regulation by DOGAMI. Though consolidating permits and separating agency jurisdiction between instream activity and upland mining is a good thing, the positive points of the proposal end there.

If approved, the proposed legislation would ban any instream mining on: 1) all scenic water ways, regardless of whether they are associated with federal or state lands, 2) all water quality limited streams, 3) all state parks, 4) all wilderness and wilderness study areas regardless of whether there is an exemption for mining in the designated zones and 5) all “designated biological resource habitat”.

These five “ban areas” represent a “de facto” moratorium on instream placer mining. Agency personnel tell me that the areas outlined above would include approximately 70% of existing instream placer mining permits. The OMA will provide detailed comments and testimony on the proposal and will be discussing the issue with legislators during the upcoming Legislative Days. The mining community in Oregon needs to remain vigilant and be prepared to respond to these continued threats.

Richard Angstrom
OMA Legislative Director

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *