By Yuxing Zheng, The Oregonian
April 26, 2013
SALEM — A southern Oregon mining group is seeking an injunction in federal court to stop bills under consideration in the Legislature that would place a moratorium on motorized mining.
Galice Mining District and four representatives filed the request in U.S. District Court in Eugene on Tuesday. It names Gov. John Kitzhaber; Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem; Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland; and Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford.
The group argues that the federal General Mining Law of 1872 protects the rights of miners to extract minerals. They seek to stop four Senate bills, two of which are still alive in this session.
Senate Bill 838 would place a moratorium on motorized mining, including suction-dredge mining, until January 2018. Senate Bill 401 would require the State Department of Parks and Recreation to study adding additional rivers and streams to the list of scenic waterways.
"It is the position of Galice Mining District that these bills are not only unlawful and unconstitutional, but also constitute possible criminal activity," the complaint said.
Dozens of environmentalists and miners testified for four hours during an April 15 public hearing on the two bills.
Jeff Manning, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice, questioned the case's legal merits.
"We can safely say we are unaware of any mechanism that would allow a party to challenge a not-yet law," Manning said. "It wouldn't be ripe for adjudication."
Legislative immunity also provides that lawmakers "can't be sued for what they do in their capacity as a legislator," Manning said.
Bates, a leading supporter of both bills, said he was notified of the filing Thursday afternoon and had not had a chance to review it in detail.
"I have a hunch it's not going to be upheld," Bates said. "My bottom line is that I want to see those streams and rivers protected. If there's some middle ground, that's fine, but right now, I haven't seen that middle ground yet."
Kitzhaber's spokesman called the injunction request "unusual" and declined further comment.
The Galice Mining District was established in 1853 and serves the miners of Douglas, Josephine and Jackson counties, according to its website. A spokeswoman for the district declined to answer questions when reached by phone and e-mail Friday.
Background Links Related to Article Comments
FONSI not Fonzie (explanation on suction dredging impacts)
Actions to Take