Digital News Report – Refund legislation authored by Senator Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) passed its first key committee test today in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. SB 889 will allow Suction Dredge Miners to request a refund of suction dredge mining permits that were purchased from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) in 2009.
Senator Aanestad says the refund legislation represents an issue of fairness. Thousands of miners followed the letter of the law by purchasing permits in 2009 that would allow them to practice suction dredge mining – a practice that was later banned during the same year by the State Legislature.
“The miners requesting these refunds should not be blamed for the legislative action that essentially pulled the rug out from underneath their industry,” said Senator Aanestad following today’s committee hearing. “I’d like to thank committee members for understanding that these miners paid for a full year of mining activities and they didn’t get it. They deserve a full refund. SB 889 clears the path toward a full refund.”
According to statistics from the DFG website, nearly 4,000 suction dredge mining permits were purchased in 2009. More than 3,000 of the permits were purchased by California residents alone. The cost of a permit for California residents is $47.50, and for out of state miners the permit fee is $186.75. In 2009, the Department collected about $250,000 from miners who were subsequently denied the right to mine.
The ban on suction dredge mining took place in early August, following the successful passage of SB 670. It had an immediate impact on Senator Aanestad’s Northern California District.
“The busy season for suction dredge mining in California runs between the key months of May through October,” said Senator Aanestad. “When the State Legislature banned this activity, the miners vanished. They didn’t buy fuel in Northern California. They didn’t buy food. They didn’t stay in local hotels. They didn’t rent equipment. The loss of this one industry represented a $60 million hit to the Northern California economy and lost jobs.”
The Senate Natural Resources Committee also took action today to pass a related measure authored by Senator Aanestad – SB 1103. This measure addresses the fee inequity that exists between surface mining operations that are classified as “active” and others classified as “idle.”
“All ‘active’ and ‘idle’ mines in California are charged an annual fee that ranges from $3400 to $4700,” said Senator Aanestad. “However, current law states that active mines that produce less than $100,000 can apply for a ‘low gross exemption’ from this fee, but idle mines cannot. SB 1103 corrects this inequity.”