Gold miners rally at Capitol against suction-dredge restrictions

SALEM, Ore. - Hundreds of miners from across Oregon gathered on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday day for a rally in support of small-scale gold suction dredging rally.

Tom Pepiot, president of the Bohemia Mine Owners Association, traveled from Cottage Grove to make sure his voice will be heard by law makers in Salem.

Pepiot said all the miners have united for a common goal--to oppose three bills introduced to the Oregon Senate.

  • Senate Bill 115 would prohibit placer mining in streambeds using motorized equipment including suction dredging.
  • Senate Bill 370 would create a fee system for commercial placer mining and limit suction dredging equipment.
  • Senate Bill 401 would designate between 27 and 30 waterways in Oregon as Scenic Waterways. Placer mining in these areas would be prohibited.

Pepiot said these bills, sponsored by Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, would regulate Oregon placer mining to death.

However, supporters of these bills have said the measures will protect fragile waterways in the state.

Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands campaign director Josh Laughlin said Bill 401 is a needed upgrade to the State Scenic Waterways System passed back in 1988.

Laughlin added that suction dredging is harmful to salmon and other fish that spawn in streambeds.

Laughlin said since the ban on suction dredging in California, the practice has increased in Oregon.

Miners at the rally said their dredging has a small footprint and should be allowed to continue under the current regulations.