Public Meetings Will Consider Mineral Withdrawal for South Coast Rivers

Pistol River meets the sea. Photo by Mureen Walker.

The headwaters of Hunter Creek, the North Fork of the Pistol River, the headwaters of the Illinois River and the headwaters of the North Fork of the Smith River (rising in Oregon and reaching the coast in California) are all threatened by proposals to conduct nickel mining on Forest Service lands. In 2014, Oregon Shores joined many south coast groups and individual activists in unsuccessfully opposing permits for exploration. We’ve been awaiting the possible news that mining companies are proposing full-bore exploitation of this resource on these vulnerable lands.

The good news is that Oregon's U.S. senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, have introduced the Southwestern Oregon Salmon and Watershed Protection Act of 2015, which prompted federal agencies (the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) to declare a “mineral withdrawal” which temporarily removes the area from the 1872 Mining Act, which opens to door to mining on public lands. If the bill actually passes these lands would be permanently withdrawn from being a mining area; the likelihood of this taking place is uncertain at best. But in the interim, citizens have time to advocate for the mineral withdrawal. 

The public will also have the opportunity to comment in person on the mineral withdrawals, or provide written comments, at two public meetings, scheduled on September 9 and 10 from 5 to 8 p.m., in Gold Beach and Grants Pass respectively. 

Wednesday, Sept. 9:  
Curry County Fairgrounds 
Docia Sweet Hall, 29392 Ellensburg Ave 
Gold Beach 

Thursday, Sept. 10: 
Rogue Community College-Redwood 
Campus auditorium, 3345 Redwood Hwy. 
Grants Pass 

We hope to assist local mining opponents in inundating decision-makers with thousands of comments to overwhelm the position of any pro-strip mining advocates who might be out there. The whole process takes about two years with action needed at different times. 

The mineral withdrawal is only for five years. Once the withdrawal is complete, it will be possible to contemplate how to permanently protect the area from any future mining without operating in a crisis atmosphere. 

Here is the summary of the Federal Registry notice.

"On behalf of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management proposes to withdraw, subject to valid existing rights, approximately 5,216.18 acres of BLM-managed public domain and Revested Oregon California Railroad lands (O&C) and 95,805.53 acres of National Forest System lands for 5 years to preserve the status quo while Congress considers legislation to permanently withdraw those areas. Such legislation is currently pending in the 114th Congress as S. 346 and H.R. 682 and identified as the “Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act of 2015.” Subject to valid existing rights, this notice segregates the lands described below for 2 years from settlement, sale, location, and entry under the public land laws, location and entry under the United States mining laws, and operation of the mineral and geothermal leasing laws. This notice gives the public an opportunity to comment on the application and also provides notification of future public meetings."

The full notice is here
For more information contact CoastWatcher (among many other things) Dave Lacey, himself a Hunter Creek resident, at (541) 373-0487, [email protected].