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Wes Hawkins: Dredge-mining

Other Voices
Wes Hawkins

Well, I saw and read another article submitted to the paper by Izzy Martin of the Sierra Fund. The same writing was on the Sierra Fund’s Facebook page patting themselves on the back.

As usual, more false claims from the Sierra Fund. Even though Ben Allen authored bill SB637 on suction dredge mining, Martin fails to mention that the Sierra Fund provided extensive support in the writing of it.

Allen was only the puppet presenting it. If you watched him give a speech at the last committee hearing about it, he stumbled all over it when he tried to read the bill. He obviously didn’t know what was in it.

Why does she have to find some legislator from a district so far removed from where the bill will have any effect, Santa Monica, to sponsor it? Because she can’t find anyone here that believes her propaganda. Plus, people in urban areas are ignorant of her agenda.

Another lie is that miners “reintroduce” mercury into the rivers. We do not put mercury back into the rivers, in fact we take it out. It’s a proven fact, our dredges hold on to 98 percent of the mercury that may be sucked into the nozzle.

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Then what manages to find its way back into the water will recollect and the next time its pulled through a dredge another 98 percent will be removed. The Sierra Fund would rather have all of it be left in the rivers I guess. Oh no, they want to use taxpayer money, (grants), so that the Sierra Fund can go in and dredge the rivers. It’s called mercury reclamation, it’s a new politically correct term for gold mining.

Another lie is that we harm fish habitat. We do not, in fact in the past 20 years there have been several environmental reviews by the government that showed just the opposite. For whatever reason over the past eight years, the state has chosen to ignore the miners and their scientists all together in this argument.

My opinion is that the politicians have been bought off by the multitude of environmental extremists that are fighting to eliminate the small miner.

I would like to see proof of the damaging of tribal fisheries and sacred sites from the ravages of gold-mining clubs. Martin says a dredge can turn the water a murky color but fails to state that the murky water clears within a 100 feet of the dredge. I would also say that she exaggerates a great deal about murky water unfit for swimming.

What the Sierra Fund fails to say in the press release, where it says “the new law requires that all small-scale miners using motorized suction pumps obtain a clean water act permit from the state water resources control board,” is that these permits will be site specific and will cost around $900 and take anywhere from a year to two years to acquire.

So if I want to dredge a claim on the American River I have to get a $900 permit for that spot and then if I want to dredge a claim on the Yuba River say two weeks later that’s another $900 for that spot.

Gone will be the ability for the small miner trying to earn a living dredging his claim or the person trying to subsidize his income by mining.

Also you can forget about the weekend or the family week vacation to go dredging. Don’t think this will stop with a motorized dredge either, it will eventually effect even a sluice box and a gold pan. It will eventually effect every user group that causes any disturbance that causes any turbidity. So watch out, fisherman, rafters, mountain bikers and others who use public lands.

This bill, AB637, will do just that, eliminate the small miner. Make no mistake that was the Sierra Fund’s goal all along. Never once did they choose a course to find common ground and work out a compromise, not once.

The other side that will come up losers in all this will be the small communities that get income from the small miners. Do they care? Doesn’t seem like it.

Dredging has been going on for more than 50 years and if the effects of it are as bad as she claims, the rivers and streams would be totally destroyed, and they’re not, not even close.

Wes Hawkins lives in Grass Valley.


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