California Claim Jumps The Rights Of Miners On Federal Land


PLF Director of Communications Harold Johnson interviews PLF Principal Attorney Damien Schiff and client Brandon Rinehart about Rinehart's right to mine for gold on his own property.

The State of California prosecuted Rinehart for using a suction dredge — basically a vacuum — to mine for gold on his claim in a federal forest. The state has banned the use of this equipment everywhere, including on federal property. The only means available for the miners who hold these claims is using a shovel and pan, which isn’t commercially practicable.

Rinehart argued that this state ban is illegal because it frustrates federal law’s explicit encouragement of his activities. Under a provision of the Constitution referred to as the Supremacy Clause, state laws that are violate or frustrate federal law are legally invalid.

PLF submitted an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeals urging the Court to recognize that California had gone too far. Federal law permits the state to regulate mining to mitigate environmental impacts. But it doesn’t allow it to prohibit it by making it commercially impracticable to mine federal claims.