Two mining companies and what’s called an association hold all but five of the existing federal mining claims in the U.S Forest Service and BLM’s proposed 101,000 acre Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal Area, Except for the five, the existing claims are held in large blocks, principally for nickel. See below who the companies are.
The nickel is found in the ancient soils of the botanically rich Siskiyou National Forest and Medford and Coos Bay District BLM lands subject to the proposal. Mining these nickel laterite soils requires surface (or strip) mining at a large scale. This is due to the high cost of trying to extract minerals from what are low grade deposits. The amount of waste left behind is also high.
The BLM’s 2005 Nicore Mineral Report concluded that the nickel laterite occurrences at Rough and Ready Creek were both low grade and small—especially when compared to those being mined or in development stages elsewhere. Tests for the Nicore Project area showed that approximately 1,825 pounds (0.91 tons) of smelter slag (waste) would be produced for every ton of dry laterite fines processed.
The report provides a table of known nickel laterites deposits in the Northwest that have been analyzed by the United States Geological Survey. Most are in Southwest Oregon. However, all were estimated to average only 1% nickel or below, with the single exception of the Nickel Mountain Mine at Riddle, Oregon. In short, it would take mining large areas to produce not very much nickel. While the area’s mineral values are low, conservation values are exceptionally high, and our rivers some of the best and cleanest anywhere.
Mining companies with existing claims | Proposed Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal Area
The Bureau of Land Management maintains a data base of all recorded mining claims in the West. It’s called LR 2000. Anyone one can run reports or queries on LR 2000. Information includes general claim location, ownership, size and payment of maintenance fees. Here’s what we learned about the existing mining claims in the Southwester Oregon Mineral Withdrawal Area.
Red Flat Nickel Corporation
Red Flat Nickel Corporation, a subsidiary of St. Peter Port Capital of Guernsey, holds 225 federal mining claims located as lodes. According to LR 2000, each is 20.66 acres in size. Total area would then be approximately 4,648 acres. Red Flat Nickel’s claims are found in two separate locations. They are:
The Cleo or Cleopatra Claims Group in the North Fork Smith River watershed. The Cleopatra Claims Group consists of 139 contiguous claims covering approximately 2,870 acres. The claims group is located in Oregon along the California border. It’s southern extent is adjacent to the Smith River National Recreation Area. The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is 1 to 2 miles away along its western extent. The Cleopatra Claims Group is entirely in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area, Oregon’s second largest National Forest wild area. Most of the claims are in the pristine Baldface Creek watershed—above the creek and parallel to the length of Taylor Creek, a U.S. Forest Service Eligible Wild and Scenic River. as is Baldface Creek, which it’s tributary to.
The RF or Red Flat Claims Group consists of 86 lode claims. The claims group is approximately 1,770 acres in size and is located in the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the Pistol River, about seven miles inland from the Wild River Coast’s Cape Sebastian and Samuel Boardman State Parks.
Locally-owned RNR Resources holds approximately 1280 acres of mining claims in three areas within the Rough and Ready Creek watershed. Two groups of claims are for proposed mine sites. The mine sites are in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The third group of claims is where RNR Resources proposes to construct a smelter and ore drying facility within the Rough and Ready Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern. There are several other claims held by associates of RNR Resources in the Woodcock Bog Research Natural Area. Note that while the RNR claims are located as “placers,” the are for nickel laterites.
In addition, the owner of RNR Resources also holds what’s known as the Nicore Claims Group. In 2005 and 2010, BLM and the Department of Interior found the 5,000 acre Nicore Claims Group at Rough an Ready Creek not to be valid. The RNR Resources claims are located in the same area for the same minerals (nickel) as the Nicore claims. The claimant is currently challenging the BLM/Department of Interior’s invalid finding. So the Nicore Claims Group is currently in limbo.
The VOR Association
The VOR Claims Group consists of 14 placer claims, each 160 acres in size for a total of approximately 2,240 acres. The VOR mining claims are held by what’s called an “association.” While they’re located as placer claims, like the RNR Resources/Nicore mining claims, they’re held for nickel laterites. Two of the VOR claims are in the Hunter Creek/Pistol River headwaters and the rest are in the Rough and Ready Creek/North Fork Smith River proposed withdrawal area.
Additional claim holders of existing claims
There’s about 100 acres of additional claims that are located on streams. These are like for placer gold.
How many of the existing claims are valid?
According U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Roy Bergstrom, none of the holders of the existing claims in the proposed withdrawal area have requested a valid existing rights determination. See the Oregonian May 5, 2016:
“Roy Bergstrom of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said Red Flat hasn’t proved mineral wealth in any of its claims, although it has done test drilling on some of them in the Hunter Creek-Pistol River drainage.
“Valid existing rights are not established on any of these,” Bergstrom said.
Any existing mining claims with valid mineral rights would not be subject to the withdrawal, but claims would have to go through mineral exams to test their validity.”
What’s so precious you can’t put a value on | Clean water, wild salmon and wilder rivers
The most valuable commodities that the Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal Area produces are clean, clear drinking water, wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout and beautiful rivers. The abundance of rare plants is a bonus. Open spaces like the Rough and Ready Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern and the Hunter Creek headwaters and ACECs are beloved by local communities. These are no places to turn over carte blanche to mining companies to become industrial zones of mines, networks of ore haul roads and metal processing facilities. Our clean water, rivers and their wild watersheds are priceless.
What constitutes a valid mining claim?
Learn about the 1872 Mining Law and mineral withdrawals in general.
 Bureau of Land Management 2005, Mineral Report: Nicore Claims Group, Josephine and Curry Counties, January 31, 2005, pp. 1-1 and 1-8
 Id. at page 1-7
 Id. at page 5-24