The 2015 Oregon Legislature recently completed its annual legislative session. The passage of House Bill 3089 provided a highlight for Oregon’s long dormant mining industry.
HB 3089 is an important first step in bringing mining back to Oregon as a significant natural resource industry. The bill creates the first statutory mining policy for Oregon, and provides that the state will welcome the mining industry, and the jobs it creates, to Oregon.
Mining plays an important part in Oregon’s history. In Southern and Eastern Oregon, mining was the industry that first brought settlers in large numbers to the Oregon Territory. Over the years, mining was the predominant industry in these parts of the state.
Unfortunately, in recent decades, mining has become virtually non-existent in Oregon, with the exception of aggregate mining. Despite studies showing potential large reserves of precious metals and rare earth elements in both Southern and Eastern Oregon on both public and private properties, and a large, well-financed mining industry in Nevada and Idaho, the mining industry has mostly ignored Oregon, due to a belief that Oregon regulating agencies and the Oregon legislature are hostile to the industry, and that mining permits will not be approved.
The goal of HB 3089 is to change that perception. The bill creates a policy statement which recognizes the importance of the mining industry to rural Oregon, the family wage jobs the industry creates, and the minimal impact that the industry has on other industries.
The bill provides that mining is a natural resource use, akin to agriculture or timber production, and that mining companies and Oregon property owners are encouraged to prospect and explore in Oregon for mineral production.
Finally, the bill directs the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) to provide detailed reports on potential mineral resource sites in Oregon, and make that report available to the public online.
HB 3089 is a bill that should have been enacted decades ago, but has taken time to develop. Special thanks to Representatives Cliff Bentz, Brad Witt, and Greg Smith for their work shepherding this bill through the Capitol.