Atkinson,Bates & Hass launch attack on mining and water rights in Oregon
Notes by Kerby Jackson

In a yet to be publicized bill, SB 765, Oregon State Senators Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point, District 2), Alan Bates (D-Ashland, District 3), Mark Hass (D-SW Portland, District 14) have launched a major assault on mining and water rights in the State of Oregon.

The bill, entitled "Relating to recreational dredge mining; creating new provisions" declares a state wide emergency, and as Atkinson's own words (Medford Mail Tribune, August 20th, 2010) have indicated in the past "declares war" on miners and mining in the State of Oregon, despite the fact that the official mineral policy of the State Oregon (ORS 517.123) states that mining and prospecting:

"(1) Are important parts of the heritage of the State of Oregon; (2) Provide economic benefits to the state and local communities; and (3) Can be conducted in a manner that is not harmful and may be beneficial to fish habitat and fish propagation."

The new legislation criminalizes the common activities of miners which are RIGHTS granted to all U.S. Citizens by the Mining Acts of 1866, 1870, 1871 and 1872, requires that all counties liscense miners and charge an exhorbant fee of $50 per season AND per county to residents and $2500 per county and per season to non residents.

In addition to creating added workload and expense to already stressed county budgets, the legislation also forces law enforcement agencies to enforce the contents of the new legislation, which will undoubtedly create a financial strain on many counties who have already been forced to cut members of law enforcement from their ranks and cut patrols. As only a few members of the Oregon law enforcement community have been educated on the Mining Laws of the United States, it is reasonable to expect that as a result of this legislation, many members of law enforcement who believe they are doing their jobs properly may find that they make serious mistakes during the process which will open themselves and their agencies (city, county and state) to prosecution or suit for unwittingly violating the granted rights of miners. As miners everywhere are now rediscovering their rights and learning to excercise them, it is only a matter of time before public servants who are unintentionally ignorant of mining find themselves on the wrong side of the Mining Law of the United States simply because they were "following orders" and "did not know better".

It should be noted that none of the three authors of this legislation seem to have much roots in the State of Oregon. Jason Atkinson is a native of Sacramento, California, while Mark Hass is a native of Providence, Rhode Island. Bates hails from Seattle. With their backgrounds in mind, it should come as no surprise that these three public servants seem to have no respect for mining.

South West Oregon was founded on mining and the gold and other minerals which were mined here and in North Eastern Oregon supplied the infrastructure and capital to develop the rest of this state. Here in South West Oregon, the combined reported gold production of Jackson and Josephine Counties alone amounted to over 56 million ounces of fine gold. At the current price of gold, that is over 78.4 BILLION dollars worth of gold that these two counties have contributed to Oregon's economy. According to most geologists, only 5% of this area's native gold has actually been mined in these two counties, leaving an estimated $1.5 TRILLION dollars worth of gold that is still left in the rivers, streams and mountains of Josephine and Jackson counties. These totals do not even take into the account the extensive quantities of copper, platinum, silver, chrome, nickel, cinnabar, mangenesium, zinc, limestone, coal, aggregate and other materials which were mined in these two counties, nor the resources that are left.

It is about time that these facts are understood and that the beneficial impact of mining in the State of Oregon is finally acknowledged.

If we do not take action on this issue, we may see the end of the 160 year old tradition of mining in Oregon. This type of legislation is contagious and will spread to your state next if it is not stopped!

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