Judge Keeps Ban on Suction Dredge Gold Mining
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Gold mining enthusiasts are disappointed and environmentalists are cheering after a judge ruled Wednesday a destructive type of river mining will not be allowed in California this summer.
The San Bernardino County Superior Court ruled that a 2009 ban on suction dredge mining will remain in place. Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director and senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, says the equipment used in suction dredge mining does significant damage when users sift through stream beds.
"This digs up sediment and destroys a lot of habitat for salmon, which are already under incredible amounts of stress in California because of the drought," says Evans.
Miners dispute the threat to fish and say small-scale gold mining is not harmful.
Evans says suction dredge mining can also inadvertently poison water by releasing mercury that's lain underground since the days of the first California Gold Rush.
"There are no restrictions on other types of gold mining like hand panning, but this type of suction dredge gold mining is particularly harmful," he says.
A previous survey conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found 80 percent of suction dredge miners engage in the activity as a weekend hobby, not as a means to make a living or make money.