For the most part, statistics make for pretty dry fare. In fact, way back in the olden days when I was in college we students used to call our basic statistics course "Sadistics 101." This said, I have a few mining-related statistics to pass along to you in this post, along with a few other items...including a rant or two.
Over the course of time I've spoken quite a bit about placer and lode gold mining claims but I'm not going to re-plow the same ground concerning claim scams or the "how to's" for filing a valid claim. Nope, none of that. Instead, I'm about to relate to you some gold mining statistics. Now before you click away from this page in search of more fruitful ground, be advised these stats are telling and indicative of the power of the forces aligned against small-scale miners these days. Sometimes numbers do tell the tale, and those I'm about to pass along to you sure as hell do:
Gold Mining Claims Abandoned in the Western U.S. (2014-2015)
California: 1,559 lode; 306 placer; total: -1,852 (0.07% decrease)
Oregon: 163 lode; 36 placer; total: -199 (0.03% decrease)
Washington: 572 lode; 205 placer; total: -777 (0.21% decrease)
Idaho: 4,217 lode; 150 placer; total: -4,367 (0.19% decrease)
Arizona: (no exact stats but the total claims abandoned is around 25% for this period!)
New Mexico: (no exact stats but total claims abandoned is above average, i.e., 7-10%)
Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah: (no stats available)
Please note that these claim decline percentages include mill sites for processing ore. Many mill sites are in positive (up in percentage) territory so the decline percentages for placer and lode claims is actually higher than those listed above. How much more negative those percentages are I can't determine.
(All stats [except New Mexico] courtesy of the Western Mining Alliance.)
(Placer mining claim in Sierra County, California.)
What Does it All Mean?
OK, so what do these stats really mean once you look past the surface? A number of things, I believe. Right off the get go it's readily apparent that more gold mining claims are being abandoned than are being filed on. In other words, we have a distinct negative or downward trend here. You might also be interested in knowing that some of these abandoned claims have been held for 25, 50, or even 100 years or more by small-scale miners or their descendants.
Now granted, a certain amount of claim abandonment occurs each and every year for a variety of mundane reasons. Some would-be miners bite off more than they can chew or are capable of working; some claims are absolute shit when it comes right down to to it; or perhaps miners just can't spend enough time working their claim to make things worthwhile. These are the more common reasons small-scale miners let their placer or lode claims slip quietly into the darkness. On the bright side every claim that's abandoned opens up a claim slot for someone new to step into. That is, in "normal" circumstances. What we're facing these days are not, however, normal circumstances. If things were bright and rosy all the way around for small-scale people like you and I, the statistics above would be likely holding steady or even showing a slight increase per year, particularly with gold prices as they are today. I can't prove this assumption without delving into decades worth of additional stats, but I think you can agree that my theory is, at the very least, reasonable and I'll try and establish some fundamental truths that may convince you I'm right in this regard.
Statistics Don't Lie
OK, so we have claims being abandoned for the usual reasons...that's a given. But what's not a given is the negative pressure that has been and continues to be exerted against small-scale gold miners by various governmental agencies carrying out anti-mining legislation and certain Indian tribes whose hue and cry about past grievances is dumped directly in our laps disguised as some sort of latter day reparation guilt trip. Then we have the scumbag politicians on both sides of the political spectrum who cater to those special interests that can get them re-elected and, at the same time, line their pockets with plenty of backroom dollars. But the worst of the bunch are the smug neo-fascists involved in the so-called "Green Movement" who once again, want to dictate their world view to the rest of us and hopefully have us drink the poisoned kool-aid of the New Green Church. It is a religion you know, not a movement (hmmm...bowel movement perhaps?). This environmental religion is anti-science, anti-mining, and ultimately, anti-freedom. Its zealots are plentiful and so is its monetary capital. And these days we all know what religious fanatics are capable of, don't we?
No, my friends. Its said that statistics don't lie and I believe the increases per Western state in abandoned mining claims are not due to mundane reasons only but are a reflection of just how difficult it is these days to mine a claim and keep it going. Increased annual fees and anti-dredging or anti-motorized equipment legislation are the real hotcakes on the griddle, along with the unrelenting pressure of the green left and its cult members. When I let my last placer mining claim go a couple of years back the main reasons were because my annual fees went from a couple of hundred dollars a year to over $1,200 and I couldn't legally dredge the claim (which was the best and most efficient means of working it). Oh, and lest I forget...increased county taxation as well. I suspect many other small-scale miners in the American West and Southwest are following suit or soon will.
A Sad Pass We've Come To
Now some of you will look at the stats I've posted above and say to yourselves, "Well, California only had a downturn of less than 1% and and Oregon even less than that. That's minuscule. It really doesn't mean much at all." You're dead wrong there pard, dead wrong. Remember, the actual decline percentages for all states are higher than those listed. Additionally, the lower percentage stats indicate that small-scale gold miners (particularly suction dredgers) in Oregon and Washington are hanging on by their fingernails hoping against hope that the courts will finally recognize them and restore some sanity to the proceedings. Both Oregon and California are, without much argument, the best gold states for suction dredging and they have both been under a relentless anti-dredging, anti-mining attack for some years now. It's little wonder that Washington state ranks among the highest in terms of claim abandonment since the New Green Church is deeply entrenched there and the Northwest in general. You'd think Idaho would have more common sense as it relates to small-scale mining but sorry about that. I've talked to dredgers in Idaho who say they're hounded at every twist and turn. As my buddy "Muskrat" (who lives in Idaho) says, "This state is overrun with forest Nazis." The real shocker though is Arizona, which comes out on top with an estimated 25% claim abandonment rate. I have no real explanation for that one since I don't think the greenies are as strong there and the state is filled with independent types. If any of you Arizona miners have a line on that let us know, will you? Nope, the numbers don't lie. It's a sad pass we've come to in the small-scale mining community. You can own a claim but you can't really work it properly or effectively because of the massive amounts of horseshit you have to deal with, not to mention the legions of green zombies just licking their lips to get the chance to pick your bones clean.
(They're coming to pick your bones clean.)
Here's all I can say in conclusion. They can kiss my ass...all of them. The greasy politicians, the cry baby special interests and their guilt trips, and the neo-fascist greenies who want to tell me how to live my life and what I can and can't do in God's own creation.
If I have to go down, I'll go down swinging.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com