Supreme Court rejects Rinehart case

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Dec. 20, 2017, directing his deputies to devise “A Federal Strategy to Secure Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals” used in the production of everything from smart phones to weaponry. The strategy is intended to reduce American reliance on critical minerals, most of which are currently imported.

The directive came a day after the U.S. Geological Survey published its first analysis of domestic critical mineral resources since 1973, an assessment the agency began in 2013. The “Critical Mineral Resources of the United States—Economic and Environmental Geology and Prospects for Future Supply” report concludes that 20 out of the 23 critical minerals which the U.S. needs now come from China.

“The United States must not remain reliant on foreign competitors like Russia and China for the critical minerals needed to keep our economy strong and our country safe,” Trump said in a statement.
“The executive order that Trump signed and incorporated some of the language from MMAC’s proposed mining legislation,” Kliewer said. “It wasn’t the whole MMAC bill, but it was parts of the bill.”

Kliewer said he is hopeful that some of MMAC’s PLP-backed lobbying efforts will provide some regulatory relief in 2018.

The executive order is at least partial proof that the efforts of PLP and MMAC to make inroads in Washington have produced positive results, Kliewer said. But, there is no doubt that the “deep state” political operatives loyal to former President Barack Obama’s anti-mining agenda are obstructing Trump every step of the way.

“Trump can’t do everything himself,” Kliewer said. “There are too many moles in the system left over from Obama’s reign. It’s too hard to affect change on all levels in one year. You just can’t do it. You can’t turn a battleship that fast.”

AMRA has also stepped up its efforts to keep to meet with select senate and house committees on natural resources on Capitol Hill, Poe said.

“We’re not going there to lobby … We’re going there to explain the reality of what is truly transpiring in this country to the lawmakers who are supposed to making decisions on our behalf,” Poe said.

Rather than write bills of push for specific legislation, AMRA’s first goal is to inform committee members about the tyranny and abuse miners have suffered under out-of-control state and federal agencies operating in the backcountry where miners live and work, he said.

“Our voice needs to be heard and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make that happen ... Something has to be done about these rogue states to bring relief … I mean they just don’t really care about federal law,” Poe said. “Good grief. It’s gotten to the point now where you’ve got these state agencies like the California Department of Fish and Wildlife out there saying that if you drive your truck down to the river and you’ve got a gold pan in it that’s aiding in the processing of material and under SB 637 it’s illegal.”

AMRA has been sending letters to the White House for several months asking for relief from overregulation and casting allegations of miners being bullied by the U.S. Forest Service.

“Trump answered my letters in August,” Poe said. “That prompted a conference call with the head of the U.S. Forest Service over allegations I included in my letters to Trump. And, just recently we’ve seen a dramatic change in the attitude of the Forest Service, especially up in Idaho.”

More recently, Poe said he has received a letter from the head of the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C.

“In the letter, it states: ‘I have been instructed by President Trump to contact you on his behalf concerning the letters you have sent him … ’ So, we do have a line of communication with president Trump and it is getting results,” Poe said.

Poe didn’t want to disclose further details of the letter, but said that it’s encouraging to get a response. He encourages all miners to write letters to Trump and his administration in an effort to reclaim mining rights.

GPAA’s role

Both Kliewer and Poe said in separate phone interviews that they are encouraged by the GPAA and the role it has played in supporting mining rights over the years.

“We’ve been partners going back to ’09,” Kliewer said. “We’re glad GPAA was in the fight and we’re happy to hear GPAA intends to stay in the fight.”

“I look forward to working more closely with the GPAA in this epic struggle for our mining rights,” Poe said.

CEQA and Bohmker cases

AMRA is now weighing the options of throwing its support behind two other cases—the CEQA case and another case involving Oregon gold miner Tom Bohmker.

The Bohmker case is similar to Rinehart’s, but the Bohmker case was filed in federal court which is where the Rinehart case should have been heard, Poe said.

“I think AMRA going forward is going to throw all of our weight behind those two cases, in particular,” Poe said. “It looks like we will likely pursue that.”

The CEQA case

PLP received news in December that the California Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa had dismissed a PLP lawsuit known in mining circles as the CEQA case. It centers around a flawed study under the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires state and local agencies to identify significant environmental impacts and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible. The CEQA case had initially involved two separate lawsuits:

• The Karuk Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Law Foundation, Pacific Federation of Fisherman’s Associations and Friends of the River had alleged that the regulations adopted in March 2012 were not developed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, fail to mitigate identified impacts and are inconsistent with existing state law. The case was filed April 3, 2012 in Alameda County Superior Court. However, in 2015, the state of California offered to pay $350,000 to this coalition of environmental groups to drop their lawsuit over the California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s 2012 suction dredge mining regulations. And, they did, sticking California taxpayers with the bill.

Public Lands for the People also sued the state, alleging that the Subsequent Environmental Impact Report, which was based on reports from Horizon Water and Environment, a consulting firm based in Oakland, Calif., was improperly and unlawfully conducted and therefore rendered skewed, unscientific findings. PLP contends the 2012 dredging regulations were based on bad science from a deeply flawed environmental report.

“The SEIR results were used to prop up the case for far more restrictive suction dredge mining regulations because of pressure from these environmental groups,” said Walt Wegner, who was PLP President at the time. “The SEIR study claims that suction dredge mining has several ‘potentially significant impacts’ on the environment, even though all previous studies had concluded that dredging causes a ‘less than significant impact.’ ” How does this drastic change in study results happen overnight? The study is bogus and heavily influenced by politics—not science.”

PLP hasn’t decided if it will appeal the CEQA case or not., Kliewer said.

“There are no definite plans to go forward with it, yet,” he said. “But, I don’t see any other choice but to appeal. The problem is that in California we can’t get a fair shake. The whole system is rigged against us. That was obvious with the Rinehart case all the way up to the California Supreme Court.”


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