For the past several years, the miners from the Galice Mining District, about 3o minutes west of Grants Pass, Oregon, have been arguing over who has the rights to the minerals in the ground around Galice Creek. The Galice mining district is compiled of a number of claims, owners and miners and has been in continuous operation since the early 1870’s, which makes it one of the longest running operations in the US. This specific operation predates the BLM bureaucracy by many decades in fact.
The area in question has produced in excess of 10 million ounces of gold since its conception, and geologists estimate that only 10% of the gold in the ground has been removed, which makes this area highly sought after by any standard. It is said that children find gold with their hands in the creeks to this day.
BLM has made several attempts to disband the operation of the sugar pine mine through multiple unsubstantiated stop orders and now a cease and desist order. The owners of this mine have spend tens of thousands of dollars to date requesting documents, researching the claims of the BLM,and preliminary attorney fees. The sugar pine has made requests to produce the official rulings that show they are in violation which have gone unanswered. They simple reason given by the BLM is that “they say so”. The BLM claims that the mine has no surface rights to the area and in turn says that all structures and equipment need to be removed. The BLM also claims that this violation is grounds for the operation to cease and tunnels filled in. The mine predates more recent rulings about surface rights so the sugar pine feels that the new ruling is not applicable to this specific situation.
Late last week, BLM officials accompanied by Josephine County Sheriff deputies issues a cease and desist order to the district without any official ruling by the courts. Specifically, the issue is not even scheduled to be heard in court until later in the year. The order has given the mine until April 25th to remove all equipment, buildings and supplies from the location. Local BLM officials have threatened to burn the buildings down if they are not removed by the date.
The owners of the sugar pine have stated that they will fully disobey the order as they claim that it is illegal and invalid. A call for assistance to the Oath Keeper’s has been made and there is no intention to leave the area by the deadline.
This issue has far reaching implications. The outcome from this issue and the court ruling to come will effect all of America. The issue at hand is not just about the Galice Miners and the gold in the ground, but more about what the government says you can do with the ground in your control. These miners have the rights to the minerals in the ground and the government wants that changed. What comes next could effect every American. What if your backyard has a specific mineral that the government values. By any means, can come in and tell you that you can not grow your broccoli on your land because it absorbs this “special” mineral? The bigger picture would effect farmers. What if gold, oil, or something like uranium was found under a farmer’s corn crop. Does the government have the right to those minerals and have the ability to over ride your use of your own land? This issue will have the ability dictate the future use of our public and private lands.