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In re Suction Dredge Mining Cases

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20017
Nos. DS4720, (Cal. Super. Ct., 01/12/2015)

A California court held that federal mining law preempts a state law that effectively bans the use of any vacuum or suction dredge mining in streams and rivers on federal lands. Under Cal. Fish & Game Code §5653, the use of any vacuum or suction dredge equipment by any person in any river stream or lake in California is prohibited unless the state's Department of Game and Wildlife issues a permit. The Department, however, may only issue a permit if it meets certain conditions for its administration and review of the permits. Due to financial reasons, the Department had been unable to fulfill the conditions, which has resulted in a continuing if not permanent moratorium on suction dredge mining permits. As applied, therefore, §5653 operates as a de facto ban. On federal lands, this impermissibly conflicts with FLPMA and the 1872 General Mining Law, which provide that all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States shall be free and open to mineral development.