Chetco River Mining and Exploration unexpectedly forfeited all nine of their mining claims on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in December of last year. While four existing claims remain on the river below Nook Bar, the major threat of mining on the CRME claims is at least temporarily gone for the ~ 15 miles of the company's claims outside the Wilderness. Currently, no further action will be taken to process the mining plans for Gold #3 through 8.
Read more about why this makes it more important than ever for Congress to pass the Chetco River Protection Act.
For the three claims in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness the effect of the claim forfeiture is permanent because the Wilderness was withdrawn from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law by the 1964 Wilderness Act. Currently, no further action will be taken to process the mining plans for Gold #11 and Gold #10.
However, while CRME did not appeal the claim forfeiture to BLM, the company still has the option to go to court. See Developer forfeits Chetco River Mining Claims.
In 2008, a Seattle-based developer purchased eight mining claims along about 20 miles of the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River and formed Chetco River Mining and Exploration. A plan to mine the 20 miles of the river was then submitted to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Over the next two years, new iterations of the mining proposal have been submitted. However, the goal remains the same—to mine almost half the length of this beautiful congressionally designated Wild and Scenic River.
This is a summary of the proposed mining:
- Two Notices of Intent (NOI) to mine the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness from Boulder Creek downstream to approximately Nook Bar were submitted in 2008 and 2010. The Forest Service does not require public notice, analysis of impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or Endangered Species Act consultation for NOI level of mining, even on a congressionally protected river. Little mining has taken place under the NOIs and any mining is now affected by the August 1, 2011 temporary mineral withdrawal.
|Area of Gold #11 in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Photo - USDA Forest Service|
- Gold #11 Plan of Operation (PoO): Gold #11 is one of three claims located in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Wild River Area of the Chetco below Chetco Bar. While the Kalmiopsis Wilderness was withdrawn from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law in 1984, the withdrawal was subject to "valid existing rights." Gold #11 was found valid in 1986. Preparation for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Gold #11 PoO began in 2010 but has been put on hold. Read why and stay tuned to Save Our Chetco as the process continues. Read more about the mining that's proposed.
- Gold #10 Plan of Operations: Gold #10 is below Gold #11 in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Before any mining can occur a valid existing rights determination has to be prepared. The PoO is considered to be a draft. If Gold #10 is determined valid, any mining there would come under the same constraints that has put the mining on hold at Gold #11.
- Gold #3 though #8 Plans of Operations: Individual PoO have been submitted to mine the six claims outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Scenic and Recreational segments of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River—Boulder Creek downstream to Nook Bar. The proposals include the use of suction dredges weighing up to one ton (read more about these mining plans). The six claims are located on the 17 miles of the river that are subject to the Chetco River Protection Act. On August 1, 2011 the Bureau of Land Management published a notice in the Federal Register temporarily withdrawing the 17 miles (5,610 acres) of river from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law for a period of two years. During this period the Forest Service's application to withdraw the area for five years (in order to give Congress time to consider the legislation) will be processed. During the withdrawal, no new mining claims can be located and the area is closed to mining unless the holders of existing claims can demonstrate they have a valid right to mine under the Mining Laws of the United States. The Environmental Impact Statement that was to be prepared for the six PoO for Gold #3-8 is on hold until validity of the six claims is determined or the withdrawal expires.
|Area of Gold #7 and 8 on the Scenic section of the Chetco River. Photo - USDA Forest Service.|
Read the mining plan of operations for Gold #8, the 2 mile segment between Boulder Creek and Mislatnah Creek.
- Little Chetco River Plan of Operations: David Rutan of Chetco River Mining and Exploration also purchased the only private inholding in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The land was originally three mining claims on the Little Chetco River. In 1988, a patent was granted under the 1872 Mining Law which allowed the privatization of 45 acres of the claims and of the mineral estate on 15 acres. The price paid to the federal government was $2.50 per acre. A Plan of Operations has been submitted to mine the 15 acres where the government retained the surface rights. The mining plan is still considered draft.
Citizens participation in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is crucial to good management decisions being made for this spectacular river and its wilderness watershed. Holly Witt is the NEPA coordinator for the Gold Beach District side of the Forest. If you want to be put on the mailing list to receive notices about mining on the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River and in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org