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Suction Dredge Gold Miners Hoppin’ Mad Over Ban

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, wilderness and wildlife, water, rivers, mining, salmon,

Suction dredgeCalifornia has drawn a line in the sediment and outlawed suction dredge gold mining, a practice in which frame-mounted, vacuumlike machines suck up the riverbed of mineral-laden mountain streams and spew it out into the water in hopes of capturing a few flecks of gold. The ban is part of a plan to help reverse declining salmon runs on several rivers—but to a bunch of hobbyist gold miners, it’s an affront to personal rights, according to the July 30 Sacramento News and Review.

“The scientific evidence against suction dredging doesn’t pass the laugh test,” James Buchal, attorney for a mining advocacy group called the New 49’ers, tells the newspaper. “This bill will put hundreds of people out of work and destroy the vacation plans of thousands of people for no purpose whatsoever.”

Despite the gold-tinged vacation dreams of the New 49’ers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the ban into law Aug. 6. Writes the Associated Press: “Small-scale miners still drawn to California to chase dreams of striking it rich will have to find their gold nuggets the old-fashioned way for awhile, with shovels and pans.”

Over at the Nugget Shooter Forum, an amateur prospecting website, compliance with the suction dredge ban doesn’t look promising. And it appears that miners still favor the speech stylings and hotheaded temperament of Yosemite Sam.

 “We are now in a lock and load catch me if'n ya can MF state a siege,” writes a poster calling himself “John Hoser Oates.” “Never been caught before and ain’t a givn’ up now either.”

 “I say screw them,” writes “Matt.” “I will be dredging the remainder of the summer until the end of the season. I will dredge next summer also. If I get into it with an enforcing agency and my equipment gets confiscated, well, it ain’t worth shit anymore anyways.”

“I know nothing about no stinking new law till I receive a letter saying my dredge permit is revoked,” writes “creekhunter.” “My dredge will be back in the water very soon and my sluice will be full of gold.”

Violators will face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

Source: Sacramento News & Review

Image by K Koski, NOAA Auk Bay Lab, licensed under Creative Commons.