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Today’s Environment Caucus is Cancelled — and some good news

The caucus meeting today is cancelled… but consider some celebrating including voting victories locally and other states such as Ohio, Virgina, etc.

We can also celebrate some good news about mining in Josephine County (see Courier article below). One more item of interest: I have reported American Mineral Research (AMR) to the FTC for their disingenuous portraying of tellurium mining as they describe in their investment pitch. They claim the mineral can be mined by drilling into hard rock via a footprint similar to a large home and in reality the only way to extract tellurium is as a by-product of (typically mined via open pit) copper refinery. At this time the FTC has acknowledged receipt of my complaint and given me a file number. Thank you all, see you in December!

Joe Stodola Chair – Josephine County Democrats Environmental Caucus

Front Page News — GP Daily Courier
Last Update Thursday, October 26th, 2023
Josephine County halts new mineral permits, mining leases
By Cara Denney of the Daily Courier
Josephine County, where the first gold in the state was discovered in the 1850s, on Wednesday suspended the approval of any new mineral exploration permits and mining leases for one year in a unanimous vote by the Board of Commissioners, despite Commissioner John West voicing skepticism a day earlier.
During a discussion among the three commissioners during a KAJO-AM talk show, West declined an invitation by Commissioner Herman Baertschiger Jr. to talk about the “policy change” involving the suspension.
“I’m not sure I understand or agree with what’s on there,” West said, referring to the wording of the proposed suspension order on the county’s website.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung also did not seem eager to speak about the proposed order that he would vote for the following day during the commissioners’ weekly public business meeting.
“I’m just waving it over to that end,” DeYoung said, laughing. He asked, “Why is this coming to us?”
Josephine County allows for the county commissioners to engage in the leasing of some county lands for mineral exploration and mining.
“It could be construed that the policy says that we ‘must’ or ‘shall’ and we probably need to change it to we ‘may,'” Baertschiger said of the policy.
Jay Meredith, the chief financial officer of American Mineral Research whose lease application has been languishing with the commissioners since May, asked that an email on the issue be read during public comment time as part of Wednesday’s meeting, but it was not.
Meredith contended that the wording is intentionally a part of the code. The definite wording is used to assure mining companies that once they have invested significant funds in the exploration stage, which is a separate permit from a mining lease, that they then will not be denied the right to mine.
“This is where the term ‘shall’ comes into the equation … to encourage industry to invest in mineral development by knowing that if they meet code standards they will be able to be granted a lease,” wrote Meredith.
Baertschiger said concern over the performance of lessees sparked what he called a “pause” in moving forward with any new mining business on county lands, and that the re-evaluation could lead to the commissioners having more control in lease situations.
One of the topics up for evaluation is an agreement on the definition of exploration, progress and success, or lack thereof, by those involved in leasing county lands for mining purposes. But it is the very authoritiy to define such terms and therefore parameters to measure the performance of those involved in mining on county lands that American Mineral contests.
“I haven’t yet heard any good reasons to justify putting a hold on mineral exploration permits or mining lease applications, but whatever you choose to do please involve your Mineral Advisory Committee (MAC) and please involve industry experts in deciding how to move forward,” Meredith wrote.
Although the one-year pause comes on the heels of action by the board to again delay any decision on American Mineral’s application, Josephine County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks clarified during Wednesday’s meeting that this order specifically states that it will not affect any decision regarding American Mineral.
Put on hold in September, but orginially filed nearly six months ago, American Mineral’s mining lease application is for an area near Wolf Creek long known as the Martha Mine and officially called the St. Pete’s Mining Vicinity. American Mineral says it has been wrangling with the county since 2008 to gain access for commercial mining at the site and contends it is rich in mineral reserves.
American Mineral says it has significant evidence to show reserves of gold and tellurium, used in products such as electric car batteries, heated car seats, small refrigerators and wine coolers.
“We have had a long-term interest in this particular county property and a long-term interest in trying to use our industry to help the county potentially produce some extra law enforcement revenues,” Meredith said when American Mineral’s application was put on hold by the commissioners in September.
The company has couched their case for their long-delayed lease approval by suggesting that the county could use the money to support the county’s cash-strapped law enforcement operations.
Meredith maintains that revenue from mining leases can be used in the same way that “forestry can dedicate some of its net timber harvesting revenues towards law enforcement and justice programs.”
However, after American Mineral’s most recent presentation to the Board of Commissioners in September, there seemed to be no consensus between the company and the commissioners as to the potential value of the mine, let alone how any profit to the county could then be allocated.
There also was debate as to what the terms of the lease agreement should be, despite American Mineral claiming it had requested that the board state its wishes a month earlier, in August.
“From our perspective, the current County code already adequately addresses this, and all that remains is drafting standard lease terms that protect the County and help the County earn royalties from these projects,” Meredith wrote, referring to the “shall” language of the code.
Meredith went on to say that without the assurance of the word “shall” in the code, American Mineral — let alone other interested mining companies in the future — would have likely “never spent significant time and money during our initial mineral exploration permit before applying for a Mining Lease under the code provisions.”
The proposed order states that application fees will be returned to any applicants whose cases are currently pending if they are denied.
“This suspension is to give the county officials time to consider ways in which to update the Josephine County code in this area,” said Hicks during the public session Wednesday.
The board order passed by the commissioners, however, was more grievous against the industry, stating that “consideration and approval of mineral exploration permits and mining leases costs public resources including staff time and consulting fees,” and that the county’s “Forestry Program should focus entirely on preparing and offering timber for sale as a steady and reliable source of revenue for the County.”
Although Hicks agreed with West’s observation that “these things take time,” Hicks said that the ordinance had already come back from the county’s mineral consultant with comments and that there was “a good chance” this could already be presented to the commissioners next week on Tuesday at a business workshop meeting.
“So when we finally come up with a policy that is good for the county, then we will go through the whole procedure,” Baertschiger said, referring to the formal ordinance adoption procedure requiring two public readings before any vote to approve or deny by the board.
Meredith wrote that some county properties have dual use, and some county properties don’t grow trees well because they have more mineral development potential than timber potential.
Commercial mining is, however, not without its issues, often running against public sentiment for recreation areas, along with environmental impact concerns.
According to Baertschiger, there are no active mineral leases currently with the county.
“This is a good time to pump the brakes on this issue and get clarification,” DeYoung said.
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Reach reporter Cara Denney at 541-474-3726 or cdenney@thedailycourier.com.