Golden State is poised to outlaw gold prospecting

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From the Daily Mail, London
Sunday, June 5, 2011

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394466/California-poised-outlaw...

There's gold in them thar hills, but pretty soon you won't be allowed to touch it.

In California, the state built on gold, the time is up for prospectors who are about to see their way of life declared illegal.

Just 162 years after history's biggest gold rush, diggers -- or dredgers as they now are -- are losing a long-running battle with environmentalists.

The reason for this mammoth fight is ... salmon.

At the centre of the battle is suction dredging, today's mechanised version of gold panning.

... Dispatch continues below ...



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Up to 4,000 people in California use suction dredging to extract gold.

It involves motorised rigs that act like giant vacuum cleaners, sucking up mud and gravel from the bottom of a watercourse and then using gravity to sort tiny quantities of gold from the rocks and dirt.

Environmentalists say the technique disturbs riverbeds where fish such as pacific salmon lay their eggs.

The salmon population has fallen steeply in the Golden State.

The environmentalists also say the dredging releases poisonous mercury into the water.

They persuaded California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to agree to a two-year moratorium on suction dredging in 2009 while scientists compile an impact report.

The 800-page report has been finished at a cost of $1.5 million.

It recommends that the dredging can carry on, but under a strict set of conditions dictating the size of the machines and when they can be used. It says that dredging should be banned in some ecologically important rivers and streams.

The report's findings are due to come into effect in six months.

But opponents of dredging, with the help of Democratic state assemblyman Jared Huffman, have managed to amend California's proposed budget in a way that will extend the moratorium for at least five years, and maybe forever.

A paragraph in the document was changed to ensure that the Department of Fish and Game cannot spend any money reissuing dredging licences until 2017.

People in the gold business are not too happy about the amendment.

Rachel Dunn, an amateur prosector who runs Gold Pan California in Sacramento, said: "It's crazy. It's a circumvention of due process, in which a cheap political manoeuvre has been used to circumvent science.

"They should be ashamed. Gold is the industry that built California. What they are doing is just total lunacy."

Gold prices are currently at a record high of more than $1,500 an ounce.

With California's unemployment rate at 10 per cent, critics say the state cannot afford to criminalise a potentially lucrative industry.

Many communities in remote areas rely on income from the prospectors who visit each year, the Independent on Sunday reports.

Bruce Johnson, who owns a campground in Seiad Valley in the heart of gold country, said: "We are holding on for dear life out here and the gold miners could immediately help ease the burden. Is the legislation intentionally dysfunctional?"

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Lewis E. Lehrman on How to Solve the U.S. Debt Problem

Lewis E. Lehrman, chairman of the Lehrman Institute, sponsor of The Gold Standard Now project, advises that to reduce the $1 1/2 trillion U.S. deficit, the Republican Party must initiate an investment program.

Working Americans are not saving, which enables the banks to lead the country into a cycle of debt, leverage, boom, panic, and bust.

Lehrman says: "Eliminating the budget deficit of a trillion and a half dollars cannot be done overnight. The proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan was very dramatic -- one Republican called it radical -- but it was not happily received. The solution, of course, is to design an American program for prosperity, because you can solve these entitlement problems with a growing economy.

"We need a tremendous program of investment, and investment comes from savings. When you pay savers, middle-income professionals and working people, 0 percent at the bank, you are not going to encourage them
to save. Then we are left with a bank cycle of debt, leverage, boom, panic, and bust."

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