A homegrown movement to protect the pure waters & famed rivers of Southwest Oregon's Kalmiopsis - Wild Rivers Coast Region

The mining threat

Two mining companies, one foreign owned, want to develop three nickel-laterite strip mines on thousands of acres of national forest and BLM managed lands in the Kalmiopsis and Wild Rivers Coast regions, a remote and rugged corner of Southwest Oregon and Northwest California, which produces some of the cleanest, clearest water in the nation, is home to the highest concentration of protected and unprotected wild and scenic rivers, and is legendary for its rare plants and starkly beautiful serpentine terrain.

What’s at stake | Heritage lands too special to mine

The proposed mines would be located in the pristine headwaters of the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith and Illinois Rivers and the beloved Hunter Creek, a free flowing native salmon and steelhead stream. Two of the mining projects are in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.

These are some of the highest value conservation lands on the West Coast. The area includes Forest Service recommended Wilderness and two “Eligible” Wild and Scenic Rivers (Rough and Ready and Baldface Creeks). They host one of the highest concentrations of rare and endemic plants in North America. Learn about the Kalmiopsis Region, the Wild Rivers Coast the area’s National Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Glenbrook Nickel at Riddle, Oregon
Glenbrook Nickel at Riddle, Oregon in 1997 the year before it closed. Glenbrook Nickel was a ferronickel type smelter. A similar process is being proposed by RNR Resources at Rough and Ready Creek. Lou Gold Photo.

The three nickel mining threats

Cleopatra and Red Flat are Red Flat Nickel Corporations’s mining projects. They’re in the second phase of mineral exploration, of what the company describes (in the plans submitted to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest) as “continuing operations.” Because plans for actual mine development have not been submitted to the Forest Service, detailed technical information on the extent of mining, extraction process, facilities locations, etc. is not public

RNR Resources submitted a mining plan of operation to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest for a full scale nickel laterite mine and smelter facility in June 2011. While the nickel processing facility is proposed for BLM lands, RNR Resources did not submit a plan for the smelter and other operations to BLM at that time. The RNR Project mine plan was returned to the company in 2012 for more and better information.

 ♦ The Cleopatra Mining Project

The Cleopatra Mining Project is Red Flat Nickel Corporation’s effort to develop a nickel strip mine in the North Fork Smith River/Baldface Creek watershed. The approximately 2900 acres of contiguous federal mining claims involved are located in Oregon. The south end of the claim block is adjacent to the Smith River National Recreation Area in California. Learn more about the Cleopatra Project and its status and get updates on permitting and environmental analysis.

♦ The Red Flat Mining Project

The Red Flat Mining Project is Red Flat Nickel Corporation’s effort to develop a nickel laterite mine in the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the North Fork Pistol River. The Red Flat claims are on approximately 1,770 acres located 10 miles inland from America’s Wild Rivers Coast, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the nation. Learn more about the Red Flat Project and its status and get updates on permitting and environmental analysis.

♦ The RNR Mining Project

The RNR Project is RNR Resource’s (formerly Nicore) full scale nickel mining proposal at Rough and Ready Creek, a tributary of the Wild and Scenic Illinois River. Webpage coming soon.

Glenbrook nickel facility at Riddle, Oregon in 1997. EPA issued draft hazardous air pollution regulation specific to Glenbrook in 1998.
Dust clearly coats the buildings and grounds of the Glenbrook Nickel (Riddle, Oregon) in 1997. EPA issued draft hazardous air pollution regulation specific to Glenbrook Nickel in 1998. A class action lawsuit was also filed against the company’s Coos Bay import facility.

The two mining companies

Red Flat Nickel Corporation

The nickel mining company is a subsidiary of St. Peter Port Capital (SPPC) of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency. According to comments submitted to BLM by its agent, Squire Patten Boggs in September 2015, RFN is a domestic company, organized under the laws of Nevada. SPPC’s 2014 annual report says that RNC is controlled by SPPC and managed directly by its Investment Manager.[1]

RFNC is 15 percent of St. Peter Port Capital’s portfolio. See here. Rounded off and in U.S. dollars, the cost of RFNC is shown as $3.6 million in SPPC’s annual report. Current value is shown as $16.3 million,

According to the BLM’s LR 2000 data base on October 1, 2014, RFNC holds 225 federal mining claims on approximately 4,650 acres managed by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Curry, Oregon and Coos Bay District BLM.[3] The claims are located as lode claims. They’re in two separate blocks—the Red Flat Claims Block and the Cleopatra Claims Block. See area map in right side bar for general location.

What little we know about RFNC is found in the parent company’s annual or interim reports. For example, SPPC’s interim report through September 2013 notes that the company has license over two nickel laterite deposits in Oregon and:

“The team have made good progress with the US Forestry Department approval for deeper drilling in Spring 2014. This is necessary to produce a Preliminary Economic Assessment and to enable the required competent persons’ report for an AIM flotation.”

SPPC’s July 28, 2014 financial report describes Red Flat Nickel Corporation and its acquisition. The “Company” is SPPC.

“The Company controls two nickel laterite deposits in Oregon. The loan partly funded exploration on the two fully owned tenements. Following the loan reaching its term in 2011, the Company has acquired the majority equity interest as well as improving the security of the loan.” (emphasis added) [2]

Written in 2013, this Medford Mail Tribune article provides additional information about Red Flat Nickel Corporation and its parent company, St. Peter Port Capital.

RNR Resources

RNR Resources is tied closely to earlier proposals to develop the Nicore Nickel Mine at Rough and Ready Creek. The first mining plan of operation was submitted to the Siskiyou National Forest in1992. Some of this history is summarized in a Forest Service decision document that’s available online here. See also “Nickel miner must take to the air” in the Medford Mail Tribune (1999) and this 2003 article in the Christian Science Monitor.

In 2001, Nicore’s owner sued the United States of America for $600,000,000. See Freeman v. USA. This required a massive and complex mineral examination, which reportedly cost the public $1 million.

In 2005, the Bureau of Land Management found the 5000 acre Nicore Claims Block invalid based on the mineral report. The holder of the Nicore claims has challenged that decision, first in the Department of Interior, and now in the District Court of the District of Columbia. See Freeman v. USDI.

In addition, RNR Resources located new mining claims in 2009 in the same area as the invalidated claims. RNR was able to do this because the Forest Service and BLM failed to withdraw the area from operation of the 1872 Mining Law.

The US Forest Service | We can’t say no

The proposed mines would be threat enough but on federal public lands open to the 1872 Mining Law, the miners—even foreign owned corporations—are given privilege above everyone else.

There’s a wide range of opinions on the extent of the Forest Service’s authority over mining operations. In our area, the agency’s position has generally been that they can’t deny a reasonable mining plan unless the lands are withdrawn from the 1872 Mining Law.

The following are direct quotes from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest’s RF-38 Preliminary Decision Memo for the RF-38 Test Drilling for Red Flat Nickel Corporation:

“The General Mining Law of 1872 (17 Stat. 91; 30 U.S.C. § 21 et seq.) grants a statutory right to enter upon public lands to prospect, explore, develop, mine, or process mineral resources, unless the lands in question are withdrawn from entry…”

“Under the law and related case law, the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has no authority to prohibit an otherwise reasonable plan of operations for such mining (i.e., one that can be characterized as the logical next step in the orderly development of a mine).” (emphasis added)

The 1872 Mining Law and equally archaic agency policy result in mining being treated at the highest and best use of the public’s heritage lands, as long as they’re open to mining.

Former Chief of the Forest Service, Mike Dombeck, testifying before Congress on the 1872 Mining Law writes:

“The 1872 Mining Law, signed into existence…is the most outdated natural resource law in the nation.  Under the 1872 law, mining takes precedence over all other public land uses, including hunting and fishing. The Secretary of the Interior must sell public land to mining companies, often foreign-owned, for as little as $2.50 per acre. 

Furthermore, mining companies pay no royalties for hard rock minerals including; gold, copper and zinc that belong to all citizens…Once claimed, it is nearly impossible to prohibit mining under the current framework of the 1872 Mining Law, no matter how serious the impacts might be. (emphasis added) [4]

Metal mining is largest polluter in the nation

According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Toxic Release Inventory, the metal mining industry is the largest toxic polluter in the nation. Read more here.

Additional information and media

  • Go to our media page for newspaper articles, guest opinions and videos.
  • To help understand the stranglehold that mining companies have over National Forest and BLM lands in the West unless their closed to mining click here.
  • Learn about the protection effort here.

What is a mining claim

Miners often argue that the mining claims they hold on National Forest and BLM lands are essentially their private property. However, the long history of federal court opinions does not support this position.

A mining claim is a property in the sense that it can be bought and sold. It also protects the claim holder from someone else removing valuable minerals from the claim. Here’s how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) defines a mining claim.

“A mining claim is a parcel of land for which the claimant has asserted a right of possession and the right to develop and extract a discovered, valuable, mineral deposit. This right does not include exclusive surface rights (see Public Law 84-167).”

Only “valid” mining claims are a property right against the United States. For example this recent finding from the District Court of the District of Columbia in one of the lawsuits filed by RNR Resources against the Department of Interior:

“An unpatented mining claim is valid against the United States only when both a discovery of valuable mineral deposit within the limits of the claim has been made, and the claimant has complied with all statutory and regulatory requirements relating to the location, recordation, and filing of claims.”

From April 16, 2014 Memorandum Opinion in Freeman v. United States Department of Interior, Civil Action No. 2012-1094.

In the same opinion, the District Court wrote:

“Prior to validity proceedings, unpatented claims amount to a potential property interest, since it is the discovery of a valuable mineral deposit and satisfaction of statutory and regulatory requirements that bestows possessory rights.” Freeman v. USDI.

The federal mining claims held by RFNC and RNR Resources have not been validated. In other words the claims are a “potential property interest.” Another important ruling is this from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

“The property right in an unvalidated claim may permissibly be restricted pending determination of validity, in order to guard against damage to the claim and surrounding land.” See Clouser v. Espy.

Unfortunately, the Forest Service’s position is to assume claim there’s a right to mine unless an area is withdrawn from operation of the 1872 Mining Law. See Forest Service authority and the 1872 Mining Law above.

Notes

[1] Originally we reported that RFNC is registered in Panama. This is because St. Peter Port Capital’s Annual Reports say this but it appears to be a confusion on their part. In discussing the status of RFNC mining project’s SPPC’s current annual report says RFNC is a Las Vegas company. In addition, comments submitted by Squire Patten Boggs, on behalf of RFNC describes it as a domestic company organized under the laws of Nevada. However, St. Peter Port Capital’s previous Annual Report and Audited Financial Statement for the year ending March 31, 2014 states that:

Two of the investee companies, Red Flat Nickel Corp. and Cuprum Resources Corp., are controlled by the Company and managed directly by the Investment Manager. (p. 13)

So we believe it’s accurate to say RFNC is a foreign owned company.

[2] In law a tenement can any type of property such as land, housing, rent, an office or a franchise.

[3] The number of mining claims is from a “customer report” run on BLM’s LR 2000 online data base on February 14, 2016.

[4] Mike Dombeck testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on January 24, 2008. Click here to download the PDF of the testimony.