- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - Miners rejoiced after the Josephine County Board of Commissioners ruled that a man doesn’t need county permission to mine for gold on a property in the Sunny Valley near Grants Pass.

The latest round of mining controversy in southern Oregon brought about 100 people to an auditorium Friday. Commissioner Simon Hare read a statement and adjourned the meeting shortly after it began, the Grants Pass Daily Courier reported (https://is.gd/WHhGFg).

“We hold there is no local jurisdiction to regulate this particular activity, and that a developmental permit is not appropriate or requisite here,” Hare said.

John West and his business partner in the Brimstone Natural Resource Company want to use excavators and dump trucks above the high water mark of Brimstone Creek to mine for what he believes is $250,000 worth of placer gold on a patented mining claim.

The site is less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the site of another controversial Brimstone mining project. It’s another 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) to the Sunny Valley Sand & Gravel site east of Interstate 5 on Placer Road, where residents fought a plan to mine millions of cubic yards of gravel. Both projects were approved by the county after a long legal process that included appeals to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

“They got it right,” West said of Friday’s decision. “They followed the law.”

Disagreeing was Steve Rouse of the group Rogue Advocates, which has fought every Sunny Valley mining project in recent years. He said rules adopted more than a decade ago direct the county to regulate mining in riparian corridors.

“We’re sorting through this very unusual set of events with our attorneys, and we will pursue this by all means necessary to make sure county and state laws are complied with,” Rouse said.

Residents from the dozen or so households on Brimstone Road were also unhappy with commissioners. They are concerned about noise, safety and truck traffic.

The victory for southern Oregon miners came days after they suffered a defeat in Salem.

The Oregon House gave final legislative approval to a bill that would ban suction dredges on most waterways in the area. Wild-salmon advocates say the process damages spawning grounds and rearing habitat. Miners contend that current laws already protect salmon habitat and that no peer-reviewed study on suction dredging proves it’s ruinous.

“A certain amount of mining activity has to be, or should be allowed, before you get into this whole bureaucratic hassle,” said Tom Kitchar of Cave Junction.

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Information from: Daily Courier, https://www.thedailycourier.com


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