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What's the Fuss about Hobby Mining?

Posted by Brad Smith at May 16, 2011 03:55 PM |
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Recreational dredge mining amounts to more than a few flecks of gold.

What's the Fuss about Hobby Mining?

A typical suction dredge

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on ICL's efforts to protect water quality, trout and salmon from recreational placer mining. This information generated lots of interest on our Facebook page. I also blogged about it a couple weeks ago.

Some quotes in the article downplay the impacts of suction dredge mining to water quality and fish. No doubt the Environmental Protection Agency has many priorities to juggle, given cuts to the federal budget. But as the article points out, hundreds of hobby miners take to Idaho streams each summer. With record-high gold prices, even more dredging will take place.

Dredge miners use a vacuum-like machine that floats on pontoons to suck up streambed sediment and gravel in search of gold. Since gold tends to be buried near the bedrock, large volumes of sediment and gravel must be dredged to secure any gold present.

Dredging stirs up sediment, decreasing water quality. When the sediment settles, it can cover fish eggs, depriving them of oxygen. Dredging can also create unstable gravel beds, which are actually appealing to fish. Unfortunately, these deceptive spawning beds are easily washed away during spring runoff, to the detriment of any fish eggs deposited in the artificial spawning beds.

These mining operations have gone virtually unregulated. Recognizing EPA's limited resources and mounds of priorities, ICL continues working for oversight of these operations for the benefit of our clean water, trout, and salmon.

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Suction Dredging

Posted by Rod Poe at May 19, 2011 11:28 AM
Hi, I'm a small scale miner, that currently does not suction dredge and has not in the past. I have witnessed many small scale miners pick up trash in the general area left by others, clean stream banks and beds of bottles, plastics, and car parts. Small scale miners also play an important role in the local economy just like sportsman and sportswomen. Spring run off, rafting activity, elk herds, forest fires, ATV'S, horse back riding, wood cutting, harsh winds, campers with kids playing in the water etc., etc. all impact these waters. Why the assault on small scale miners? Can you name one citation the State of Idaho, EPA, or BLM has given to a small scale miner for clean water act violations? It seems most environmental groups appear to be lobbying to affectively lock the citizens of this country out of public lands. No impact statements, no studies performed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, nothing from Idaho Fish & Game...who and why are you really attacking? Maybe one day, the EPA may not side with you on mountain biking, hiking, "rafting which constantly cause's fish stress and disturbances"', or just being out there. Really, how much more freedom/rights can we lose?
Rod Poe Boise Idaho

Suction Dreges - ICL's position not suported by science

Posted by John at Jun 15, 2011 11:39 AM
    Why do we as a group even bother the little miners? These folks have toys contraptions and are playing in the rivers, being a fish biologist with over 30 years of experience I would contend that these folks are doing a great positive service that is an invaluable asset that improves stream quality. At present the ICL's position exact opposite published science this now makes ICL cause look pretty ignorant to the published truth of the matter.
    There have been many studies that affirm these small machines (8” and less) when operated correctly actually very beneficial to the stream beds worked. From my personal observation the folks who are operating them are as concerned or even more, about a positive impact as the members of this group. In my travels as a biologist and having had the opportunity to operate several of them that I can affirm the environmental impact if any is a positive one. Again there are several documented studies private, academia and government that confirm the gravels discharged from these machine make excellent aerated gravels that are prime for cultivating fish roe, which again scientific studies affirm.
    I truly believe that if the ICL would approach these miners as a partner relationship rather than the adversary one like what is currently projected by the ICL they could make great strides to improve water quality on sub pristine waters within Idaho. The ICL's current stand regarding dredge mining in Idaho's open rivers might not be the best use of time and resources, besides were fighting documented and published scientific studies that support the exact opposite of ICL recent announcements.

Food for thought, John

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