"Free Willy." Flanagan said.
"What's he in for? Dredging without a permit?" I asked.
"No, the killer whale."
"Illegal fishing?" I replied.
"Whatever, his real name was Keiko." Bob told me.
"And why are we talking about Keiko the fish?" I asked.
"Whale." Bob replied. "He's dead you know."
"My sincerest regrets for his family. I'm sure he'll be missed."
"He died in 2003 because he refused to swim back to the ocean and join a pod of other whales." Bob said.
"And, this is going somewhere?" I replied.
"You know they spent over $20 million to free Willy and in the end he died."
"Live free or die I guess." I responded.
"The point is a whole lot of people felt really good about themselves and spending $20 million to save him. They made three movies and a bunch of money at the box office, but in the end freeing Willy wasn't such a good thing." Bob said.
"I missed the part about the fish dying in the end." I said.
"That's because they don't make movies about whales dying after spending $20 million to free him. The activists want you to believe he's still out there swimming somewhere having a bunch of little Willy's." Bob replied.
"OK, but we're not fishermen so I don't see where you're going with this." I said as I picked up the remnants of my glass of Old Tailings and held up two fingers for Rocky Stone, the bartender, to brong some more.
"It's the same thing as they did to dredging." Bob continued.
"How do you figure?" I asked as Rocky set two more beeers in front of us and said, "This I've got to hear how freeing Willy and gold dredging are the same thing."
I shot a sideways glance at Rocky and said under my breath, "With Bob, there's a connection with everything and dredging, even fish."
"Dredges were the only thing removing mercury from California rivers, but they said the few molecules of mercury were just too much to bear and we could harm mothers and children with those molecules." Bob stated.
"Well, there you go," Rocky jumped in, "Once they bring up the 'mothers and children' argument it's game over."
"It made a whole bunch of people feel really good. They spent a lot of money on reports, paid off the environmentalists and ensured there was nothing removing mercury from the rivers. So now instead of a few molecules, there's pounds of it running downstream. The last time they measured mercury levels in bugs it was almost twice what it was before they killed dredging." Bob told him.
"They didn't tell you that." Rocky replied.
"They didn't tell you Willy died." Bob countered.
"What do you guys care anyways. With the recent court decision you guys are done. You're like the dinosaurs and the California Court was the meteorite which killed you off." Rocky said wiping down the spillover from the Old Tailings.
"We're not miners anymore, we're real estate barons like Donald Trump." Bob said.
"Right, and like Hillary Clinton I run a bar because I'm looking out for the little guy."
"No kidding. The Court said the 1872 Mining Law wasn't about mining at all, it was just a real estate law." Bob told him.
That broke my concentration from something floating in my Old Tailings, "They said what?"
"As usual I'll assume you didn't actually read the document so I'll give you the short version." Bob said with some degree of sarcasm, which is his normal tone of voice when he's trying to prove how well read he is.
"The California Supreme Court went back and rad the documents leading up to the 1872 Mining Law and determined the Congressional Act actually had nothing to do with mining." Bob said.
"Hence the title Mining Act." I said.
"Exactly. Congress just chose poor wording, they should have titled it something a little more clear. You see, us sneaky miners were actually just after real estate and were hiding our land grab within the 1872 Mining Law, or so the California Supreme Court believes."
Rocky stared incredulously across the bar and poured two more Old Tailings for us. Old Tailings is supposed to be an IPA but we're sure it's just some local guy brewing it in his basement without realizing tailings are the thing we throw away.
Rocky set the glasses down and said, "So, the highest court in California just interpreted the 1872 Mining Law as having nothing to do with mining?"
"You sure would hae thought someone would have caught on to this scam within, let's say, 100 years ago or so." I added.
"The Court says we can have a mining claim, but we can't actually mine it." Bob stated.
"We may have a small problem." I mused.
"Do you think?" Bob replied.
I continued, "In the 1970's a whole bunch of dope smoking hippies decided mining claims were a great place to camp a Volkswagon bus and start a commune. So Congress passed a law called the Federal Lands Management Policy Act which said the only thing you could do on a mining claim is actually mine."
Bob turned to me with some new respect in his eyes, or it could have been just a splash of Old Tailings burning, "You've been reading mining law?"
"Not exactly. You see me and the Forest Service had a disagreement back in the 90's over a trailer I had parked on the Yuba. I came out on the short end of that." I said as he wiped the Old Tailings from his eye.
Rocky set down his towel and said, "So, let me see if I got this right. Congress passes a law called the 1872 Mining Act, which really isn't about mining, it's about real estate and 150 years later the California Supreme Court finally catches on to this scam and says you can have a claim but you can't mine it. The Forest Service says you can't have a mining claim if you're not mining it?"
"Yeah, that about sums it up." Bob replied.
"And you guys say I'm the idiot for buying a bar off of Ebay?"
"The problem," I say, "Is you guys don't see the angle on these scams. Now that the California Supreme Court has ruled we're real estate owners, and nothing more, we've got some prime waterfront real estate. I'd say the future is looking pretty bright."
"Starvation Creek is a poison oak infested steep canyon with no redeeming qualities other than gold. We've got a court decision which says the mining law isn't about mining and we've got an environmental impact report which says we might frighten birds to death and harm mothers and children. Where's the angle in that?"
"What do environmental groups, saving whales and social programs all have in common?" I asked.
"They take money from taxpayers and make it disappear?" Bob replied.
"No, they're all exempt from the California laws on environmental impact. You see we're looking at this the wrong way. We're not miners anymore we're real estate developers."
"Owners of worthless real estate in the bottom of a canyon." Bob responded.
"No, my friend. We are owners of prime real estate to build low-income housing for unwed transgendered mothers and children which is exempt from environmental permitting."
"What makes you think the State would approve that?" Rocky asked.
"If they didn't they'd be harming mothers and children." I replied finishing off my glass of Old Tailings.
"Can't beat that argument." Bob said. "Two more Rocky."