12 months ago

California Claim Jumps The Rights Of Miners On Federal Land

By Kevin Desormeaux Digital Content Manager

The State of California prosecuted PLF Client Brandon Rinehart for using a suction dredge — basically a vacuum — to mine for gold on his claim in a federal forest. The state has banned the use of this equipment everywhere, including on federal property. The only means available for the miners who hold these claims is using a shovel and pan, which isn’t commercially practicable.

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People v. Rinehart

California’s original Forty-Niners made their fortunes in gold with shovels and pans. Modern-day prospectors use a “suction dredge” – a specialized vacuum – to suck up sediment from streams, extract the gold, and then return the sediment to the stream. Federal law not only permits but encourages suction dredge mining, even on federal lands, while states retain the right to require permits and regulate environmental impacts. Unsatisfied with this balanced approach, California banned suction-dredge mining entirely. Brandon Rinehart, who profitably mined his Nugget Alley claim in the Plumas National Forest for years, was convicted of violating the ban over his defense that the ban is preempted by the federal Mining Act of 1872.

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