Property Rights

Bohmker v. Oregon

Federal mining law preempts Oregon’s ban on suction-dredge mining

Oregon decided to outlaw “suction dredging,” the only profitable method of mining gold from streambed deposits. Suction dredging uses a small, lawn mower-sized motor and an underwater vacuum hose to suck up and filter gold out of streambed sediment. The federal Mining Act, however, encourages free and open exploration for valuable minerals on federal lands. The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause means that when the federal government authorizes you to do something, a state can’t prohibit you from doing it. Miners challenged the Oregon law as preempted by the federal Mining Act, which reigns supreme under our Constitution.

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