Annual Assessment Work

What a difference an engine makes

The purpose of annual assessment work is to assess your claim for economic viability


In 2010 the number of federal regulatory restricitons passed 1 million

I would truly love to comply with every rule, regulation, law, directive and executive order. There's an awful lot of them out there and on occasion I may miss one or two recently enacted ones.

But how many laws and regulations are there which we must comply with? That's a good question and as it turns out no one really knows the answer. Perhaps the best source for that answer should be the Library of Congress. A federal organization set up specifically to provide references and answers to Congress. So when they were asked to determine how many federal regulations and laws were out there, the answer came back, "We don't know, it would be impossible to determine." The US Justice Department sought to answer the same question, but this time only iin regard to criminal laws. After a two year effort by Justice Department employee Ronald Gainer the answer returned was "...about 3,000" but as Mr. Gainer said about trying to determine the actual number of laws, " will have died three times and been resurrected three times and still not have an answer to this question."

About once a year you'll see a short article online or in the newspaper which attempts to tally up only the laws passed that year. The experts have quit trying to count the laws and now they only measure the amount based on total pages of regulations produced in a particular year. According to the Office of the Federal Register, the organization which prints public notice of these laws, in 1998 the complete set of U.S. Codes was 134,723 pages, consisted of 201 volumes and required 19 feet of shelf space. In 1970 there was 54,843 pages of regulations.

According to information compiled from the site, and as reported by the Daily Caller, in 2014 alone the current administration added another 75,000 pages of regulations to the U.S. Code. To place this within a frame of reference, from 1776 to 1970 54,843 pages of regulations were added to the books. In 2014, one year of this country's history the Obama Administration managed to exceed two hundred years of regulatory burden. According to the Daily Caller the vast majority of these pages were added by the U.S. EPA in their quest to protect every inch of the environment, and take control of every drop of water.

Sometimes when things hit this kind of scale we turn glassy eyed and pretend they don't affect us. So we'll narrow our focus a little and just look at California and the dredging regulations. This is something close to home.

1994 Regulations

After conducting an environmental impact report (EIR) the State of California imposed suction dredging regulations in 1994. The economic impact of these regulations can be seen by comparing two surveys of suction dredgers. One conducted in the 1980's prior to the 1994 regulations, and one conducted in 2011 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The 1994 Regulations consisted of 23 operating restrictions (regulations) and 180 location regulations for a total of 203 regulations which governed suction dredging in California. There were 17 pages in the regulations and the Environmental Impact Report which produced these regulations consisted of a total of 177 pages.

The 2012 Environmental Impact Report was 1,388 pages and spawned an eqully large number of regulations. The 2012 EIR was a "Subsequent EIR" meaning the majority of the evaluation had already been done in the 1994 EIR so in theory the 2012 EIR should have been shorter and spawned fewer regulations, but that's not the regulatory world we're living in.

The 2012 regulations take up 70 pages and required 66 operating regulations and 838 location restrictions for a total 904 regulations. That's 904 regulations to regulate your lowly 2" dredge on your federal mining claim.

What is a regulation? It is a restriction emplaced by an agency. Congress, or the state legislature passes a law, this law may be one page, but it provides an agency with authority to restrict your rights. The agency is virtually free to impose whatever regulations they wish which chip away your rights one page at a time. One thing is clear, regulations never give you more freedom or more rights.

It should concern us all when our own government doesn't know how many of these things are floating around out there. It's likely some person somewhere is entrusted to the enforcement of every singel one of them. It's equally likely you violate hundreds of these regulations every day, but you go about your life blissfully ignorant.

There are regulations heaped upon regulations. In fact, the entire dredging legal fight is about which regulations take priority over other regulations. The regulators and the courts have come up with a solution for this, it's called "harmonizing." So often you'll be reading about a legal fight over regulations and you'll see the court determine the regulations can be harmonized. That is you can be subject to two regulations over the same operation. Typically you find this when the federal government imposes a regulation, then the state imposes even more regulations over the regulation.

In the case of dredging the fight is over whether the right granted by Congress, that all public lands are free and open to propsecting and mineral location, is in conflict with a California (Oregon, Washington) law which says they can regulate you out of mining so long as they don't go so far as to eliminate your right to prospect. Sure, you may be able to still prospect, but the states have made it environmentally impossible to recover any mineral you locate.

Congress grants a right, the right to prospect and mine. A state says well we need to regualte the environmental effects through reasonable regulation and Congress does nothing. That's one chip away at your rights. You just lost something. Regulators being regulators, they tend to regulate and then produce yet more regulations. Look at the difference between the 1994 and 2012 EIRs. 203 regulations to 904 regulatons. 177 pages to 1,388 pages.

Has there been any, even a single improvement to the environment? Can you tell? Can anyone?

A Choice Between Two Rules

These regulations have significant impact. When California emplaced the dredging ban it was challenged in court, this has now been 7 years and there is still no end in sight for the legal cases. Meanwhile there is significant harm occuring to those of us who own mining claims.

At the start of the dredging ban, when it was supposed to be temporary I actually decided to comply with the ban. As the first season stretched into the third I gave up with compliance. I have a regulation which says I'm supposed to do annual assessment work. That's a reasonable regulation and I can understand why BLM wants some activity on your mining claim every year. For two years I went to my claim, cut some brush, cleared some trails and did a little panning but really recovered no gold. I picked up another claim and I needed to sample and assess this claim for viability. In the third summer I took a pan and walked the length of the claim and got just dismal results. This was a creek which should have held some pretty good gold, but from the bank sampling I didn't get enough gold to warrant holding onto the claim.

Prior to giving up on this claim I decided I would go ahead and really do my assessment by using a small sampling dredge and see what it held. So I conducted the sampling again. The picture below is the results of sampling with a dredge. Now what's my decision? Keep it.

Gold Pan

One regulation says do your assessment work; one regulation says don't

Two very different outcomes. One complying with the ban, the other complying with the federal law. Can these two laws be harmonized? You need to look to the intent. Why does BLM want you to do annual assessment work? To ensure you have an economically viable mining claim. The above example shows the true intent of the federal regulation. The Californai regulation serves no purpose except to materially interfere in mining.

Another assessment year is upon us. You decide what you want to do, comply with one regulation, or another. It's your choice.