February 3, 2017

California’s ban on suction-dredge mining puts gold prospectors out of work

By California’s ban on suction-dredge mining puts gold prospectors out of work

PLF’s cert. petition in People v. Rinehart challenges California’s ban on suction dredge mining. Brandon Rinehart a prominent gold prospector in California shares his views on the suction dredge ban and PLF Attorney Damien Schiff reflects on its unconstitutionality.

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Rinehart v. California

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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