All About Lode Gold Mines (Conclusion)
I'm going to wrap this series up with this post so we can move on to other topics of interest. My main thrust here focuses on safety, safety regulations, and environmental factors when working a lode gold claim.
A Huge Issue
Safety is a huge issue in any mining enterprise...placer or lode. In lode mining the Feds, state, and local "authorities" are pretty specific about what they expect from a safety standpoint and they are also pretty damn determined that you don't stray from existing mining safety laws and regulations. Of course, there is a method behind all this madness and the fundamental idea behind all this bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo is to keep you (and others) safe while doing your thing on a lode claim. There are two main governmental entities that deal with mine safety on the Federal level: the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Additionally, each state has its own, smaller variants of these larger, Federal organizations and both state and Federal safety requirements tend to overlap at times. I'll be totally up front here. The actual laws and regulations governing mine safety are far too voluminous to recount here. But that doesn't mean you should ignore the entire issue of safety whether you're a placer or lode gold miner or both. As I've said many times in Bedrock Dreams, no amount of gold is worth dying for or being crippled up or maimed. Another consideration from the lode mine standpoint is that both Federal and state safety inspectors are bound to show up at your lode operation at some point or another and if they find things amiss from a safety standpoint...well pard, they will shut your ass down...pure and simple. In a way, this a good thing. It helps prevent the stupid or careless from harming themselves or others. Me? I've puttered around on lode claims and helped out others on them for very short periods. But I will readily admit I'm claustrophobic and get the heebie-jeebies when underground or walking into a lode mine. That's why I'm primarily a placer miner and always have been. I also avoid old, abandoned mine shafts like the plague. They are far too dangerous to enter for the most part and I recommend you steer clear of them too.
(Old mine shafts and prospect holes are dangerous places.)
If anything is going to make you throw up your hands in despair and forget the entire lode gold mine issue it is the massive amount of bullshit you're going to have to contend with from an environmental regulations standpoint if you're planning to make your lode claim operations significant or substantial. Right from the get go you're going to have to prepare and submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is no small undertaking. I know...back around the mid 1990s I worked on an EIS for a scientific consulting firm involved in Federal contract work and it was a huge undertaking that required a full-time staff of around 30 people, including engineers, scientists, tech writers, and admin folks. Now as a small-time operator your environmental impacts are probably not going to be that significant and the Feds and the state regulators may cut your some slack by allowing you to file what they call a "negative declaration" or "nominal declaration." The former simply says that you anticipate no significant environmental impact from your small-scale lode operations. With the latter you are stating that any environmental impacts from your mining work will be slight, or "nominal." However, to get either one of these declarations through the Federal or state "systems" takes time and those bureaucrats have to agree with you about your assessment of the environmental impacts involved. Whatever the case, everything you do on your lode claim must comply with the appropriate Fed and state environmental regulations. So all this bureaucracy is ostensibly there to protect the environment from all you rapacious and hell-bent-on-destruction small-scale miners! In truth? A good part of the environmental regulations we deal with today were put into effect to satisfy certain social and political agendas and the money behind those agendas. And the big mining corporations? Well, the big corporate mining boys have the money to grease political palms and get their open-pit operations OK'd regardless. But the bureaucrats make them jump through the same hoops just to put on a good "dog and pony show" for the environmentalist nut jobs out there. Oh, and one last thing here. The U.S. Forest Service has its own environmental regulations that fall under the larger Fed umbrella. Getting the bureaucratic picture here? They have you coming and going.
More's the Pity
Now let's say your lode gold mine or claim is way out in the boonies somewhere in the deserts or mountains and miles and miles of rutted roads are the only access in. Are you still held accountable for all these safety and environmental regulations? Of course you are. But here's the deal. If your lode operation is very small the likelihood of you being "visited" by safety and environmental inspectors is very low...or at least lower than more accessible lode operations. But remember, the claim you filed is on record. Should you decide to blow off certain aspects regarding safety or the environment (and I'm not recommending you do) you do face the possibility of being hauled up short by the bureaucratic agencies in question. Hauled up short and fined! So do what you gotta do however you want to do it, but be prepared to "pay" the consequences if you're caught dancing around the required regs and paperwork. It ain't like the old days when a miner or single-blanket jackass prospector could do his or her thing freely and without laboring under mounds of bureaucratic restrictions and paperwork. More's the pity in many respects...
I apologize for sounding so negative here, but the fact of the matter is that it seems the little guy or gal wanting to operate a small-scale lode mine is always on the short end of the stick. Meanwhile, the multi-million or billion dollar mining corporations get by because they know "it takes a gold mine to operate a gold mine" and the "greenies" ultimately call the shots for all of us from a legislative standpoint. Old-time lode prospectors and miners like "Shorty" Harris, "Ed" Cross, and "Pete" Aguereberry must be turning over in their desert graves right now.
God rest their implacable souls...
(c) Jim Rocha 2018
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