December 21 Administrative Discussion meeting
Josephine County Commissioners had one meeting last week with one issue: a mining exploration permit extension request they concluded couldn’t be extended but it can be renewed. American Mineral Research spokesman Jay Meredith gave a presentation during their Dec. 21 Administrative Discussion meeting, reviewing his operation and touting the potential of Tellurium, a rare mineral used in the production of solar panels and being looked at by researchers trying to build longer-lasting batteries for electric cars. Meredith has appeared before the board many times over the years with his contention a Tellurium strike could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the county to pay for law enforcement the way timber used to during its heyday.
In addition to asking for a permit extension, Meredith said with the passing of HB 3684, the Infrastructure bill, there will be grants for critical mineral exploration his company can apply for and asked the county to be a partner in the process.
While the Commission has been supportive of Meredith’s work and haven’t questioned his claims, Chair Dan DeYoung put the brakes on any kind of public/private partnership, apparently thinking this involved the investment of taxpayer’s money.
Meredith said that was not what he meant; he only wants support from the county when submitting applications for grants that could total as much as $50 million. While Commissioner Darin Fowler was all for this kind of partnership, even going so far as suggesting they use timber receipts to help pay expenses related to the exploration, DeYoung was wary. He said when the exploration permit AMR has now comes up for renewal in 18 months, they may be in a better position to see what AMR has found and if it warrants further exploration. DeYoung also reminded Fowler that timber receipts are already committed to law enforcement and this is no time to be talking about using that money for speculation when the sheriff’s budget is so tight.
Although Meredith has often proclaimed how Josephine County law enforcement could benefit from mining revenue, he reminded Commissioners Tellurium mining is a long-term process. He said his company has already lost half its permitted exploration time because of COVID and a dispute with neighboring claim-holders that dragged out the public hearing process and ultimately cost the county money. He said delays were caused because a primary investor in shut-down Australia couldn’t get here for first-hand observation and because a shadowy group was trying to discourage AMR’s exploration by putting boulders in the road leading out to their site as well as ominous “Trespassers Will Be Shot” signs all along the access road. Meredith said it was a “very bazaar” situation and told Commissioners public mining records show those folks may be doing things out there without proper permits.
DeYoung refused to get into any discussion about possible backwoods shenanigans but asked County Forester Dave Streeter to tell the board why the permit process cost the county money. Streeter said the county paid $13,000 for a mining consultant during AMR’s dispute with the neighboring claim “for the county’s protection.” He told Commissioners the county’s permit ordinance does not allow for an extension, but AMR can apply for a renewal 90 days before it expires. At that time, AMR will have the opportunity to show some progress on their exploration and that a condition of permit renewal will be responsibility for consultant fees, Streeter said. Although Meredith said the county generates money from the permit, Streeter said it wasn’t nearly enough to pay the consultant’s bill.
During his presentation Meredith reviewed what his company does, saying education is the key to getting the public to understand how mining has changed and how little impact it has now on the environment.
“You know, we’ve tried to make a presentation to several groups that seemed to have an interest in the management of our public lands in Josephine County and we’ve made several requests to give a presentation to the Josephine County Democrats and they, so far, have not wanted to hear our science based approach on how we can develop mineral resources in an environmentally friendly way. We tried to reach out to the Courier because they have not been exactly factual in their reporting on what we have here in Josephine County, in the potential, but Commissioners you wouldn’t know anything about that so I’ll just move on from that topic,” Meredith said.
Meredith said AMR does very small scale environmentally friendly developments and they don’t operate near waterways but are concerned about land lockups proposed by the federal government. He claimed his company has discovered high grade natural Tellurium on an old claim on land the county owns. Tellurium is a mineral often found with gold but wasn’t considered important years ago so it wasn’t taken out along with the gold. The property concerning the permit is the site of the old St. Peter Mine on about 75 acres of county-owned land in the Wolf Creek area. Meredith cautioned Commissioners not to even think about selling that piece off as it may have the richest Tellurium site in the county and not to consider selling other land until mining potential has been explored. He said the county has already sold off some good sites without considering the mineral values they might have had. Meredith was a bit concerned that the county is auctioning off timber around the site AMR wants to explore when, during the permit process, he was assured there would be no timber harvesting in the area. Streeter said that could be worked out for minimal disturbance for either party.
AMR has numerous projects going on around the county and DeYoung wanted to know how many and on who’s land. Meredith said they have 36 claims over about 700 acres in different parts of Josephine County, on BLM land and private property, of which AMR owns one. He said that covers about 11 historic gold mines.
“What’s lode mining,” DeYoung asked.
Meredith said that’s the old fashioned extraction from a hole in the ground but machines do it now instead of a crew of miners.
“What’s Tellurium worth?” DeYoung asked.
“It’s measured by the kilo and is about $75 per kilo. That’s not much but given how rare it is and how it’s used in green energy I think over time it will go up,” Meredith said.
After several more questions and answers, with Commissioner Herman Baertschiger just listening without comment, Commissioners thanked Meredith for the presentation and told him to come back when his permit needed renewal in May of 2023. As far as the Infrastructure grants, DeYoung told him the Commission may be able to write a letter of support to Congressman Cliff Bentz and ask him to help Meredith but wouldn’t commit to any further “partnership.” No one mentioned that Bentz did not vote for the Infrastructure bill.
DeYoung also thanked Meredith for his help with the presentation he gave to Congress a few weeks ago.
“In this recall they say I misled Congress but I didn’t,” he added.
Right-wing radio this week
Herman didn’t call in this week. The Bill Meyer Show featured some panicky woman named Nicole Neilly, president of Parents Defending Education, which is a national right-wing group trying to overthrow school boards and install people they think will grow in stature to eventually take over blue states. Topics of conversation ranged from endless complaints about the tyranny of wearing masks, unfounded rumors about the blue dye in masks being poisonous, about defunding the Oregon Health Authority which they say has caused “evil divisiveness” and of course people calling in saying Biden is a tyrant who got in office because of an unfair election. Meyer has taken on the Tucker Carlson crusade against the marginalization of white people and Neilly is carrying that notion into education, complaining that schools are aggrandizing people of color at the expense of white kids. She argued against diversity in schools and of course any curriculum that attempts to tell kids people of color played an important part in our history. Meyer wrapped up his show by reading letters from people who moved to Idaho from Oregon saying they don’t want Oregon annexed to Idaho because too many liberals would be included in the deal.