by J. Pelton
On May 27, 2010, the Nevada County Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject an application from Blue Lead Mine LLC for a “vested” right to mine. The meeting was streamed live, and will be re-shown on NCTV.
With approval of a vested right, the mine owner would not be required to obtain a County mining permit. A vested right to mine is applicable only to mines that were in active, continuous, legal operation in 1954 when the County began requiring permits, and that have continued to operate legally. Daydreaming about mining some day doesn’t count.
Staff Recommendation Initially Ignored
Previously, during a poorly noticed and poorly attended hearing on March 25th, the Commissioners had signaled their intention to approve the application, based primarily on a presentation by Blue Lead’s attorney which glossed over the complete lack of verifiable evidence to support initial vesting in 1954, as well as the long periods of no mining activity, or illegal activity, from 1954 to the present. The Commissioners’ decision on March 25th was all the more surprising in light of the thorough research by County planning staff, and staff’s recommendation against vesting.
Public Hearing Re-opened
Two more hearings were held in April and May at which many members of the public, including a local historian with first-hand knowledge of the area, rose to speak in opposition.
The unanimous vote to reject Blue Lead’s application represents the triumph of truth over flim-flam. The Commissioners listened carefully, again, to the lengthy presentation by Blue Lead’s attorney, during which he repeatedly asserted a vested right without actual evidence, while trying to persuade the Commissioners that unsupported theories about the history of mining in the vicinity of the Blue Lead property, some old photos, and vague declarations were sufficient “proof”. Commissioners also heard compelling presentations and comments from the public, and ultimately decided that Blue Lead had not provided credible evidence for its vesting claim.
Integrity Of The Process
The State Attorney General has cautioned that the vested rights exemption should be strictly construed, and that substantial doubts should be resolved against granting exemptions. If Nevada County enforcement of mining regulations is lacking, the State Office of Mine Reclamation can, and will, step in. The proper way to protect the County’s status as lead agency, and to support legitimate vested rights, is to protect the integrity of the process by requiring actual, verifiable, proof of vesting. It is expected that, henceforth, the Planning Commission will hold future applicants for vested rights to a much higher standard of evidence than was provided by Blue Lead.
In the meantime, YubaNet has reported that the geologist working with Blue Lead (Charles P. Watson, President and Chief Geologist of Advanced Geologic Exploration) is advertising patented placer mining claims in the You-Bet Red Dog Mining District in Nevada County which “may have vested mining rights”. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
Blue Lead Must Obtain County Mining Permit
Although the application for a vested right to mine was not approved, the owner of Blue Lead LLC can still mine his property when he obtains the appropriate County permits.
Nevada County, the Bureau of Land Management, the Office of Mine Reclamation, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the Forest Service, all have case files on Tucker White, the owner of the Blue Lead Mine, for SMARA-related violations and trespass. It has been reported that Mr. White also has a record of mining violations, including water pollution, in Plumas and Lassen Counties.
Report Suspected Illegal Mining
Illegal mines are those mines that are not in compliance with the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA). You can notify the Department of Conservation’s Office of Mine Reclamation (OMR) by telephone (916) 323-9198, or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, with a description of the type of mining activities observed, where the mining operation is located, when you observed it, and any other pertinent information.
“County Planning Commission Denies Vested Rights To Blue Lead” – May 27, 2010
“Blue Lead Mine Reopening Denied For Now” – May 28, 2010
“County Set To Rule On Reopening of Blue Lead Mine” – May 27, 2010
“Third Hearing for Blue Lead Mine’s Vested Rights Claim on Thursday” – May 26, 2010
“Graphic History of Events Pertaining to Blue Lead Property” – May 24, 2010
“Blue Lead Decision Postponed until May by Nevada County Planning Commission” – April 26, 2010
“Future of Operations at Blue Lead Mine Still Uncertain” – April 23, 2010
“Blue Lead’s Geologist Dabbles in Selling Mining Claims” – April 21, 2010
“Owners of Blue Lead Mine Can Keep Mining” – March 27, 2010