Armed Oregon Protesters Gather at Bureau of Land Management Office Over Mine Dispute, Report Says

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FA Note — Courts have long rec­og­nized the Act of July 26, 1866, and May 10, 1872 as amend­ed, where­by Con­gress abdi­cat­ed its author­i­ty and juris­dic­tion over the min­er­al estate, grant­i­ng it as an absolute gift with­out con­di­tion or lim­i­ta­tion to all cit­i­zens.

More than 100 demon­stra­tors, some of them armed, report­ed­ly sur­round­ed the Bureau of Land Management’s Med­ford, Ore­gon dis­trict office Thurs­day to protest the agency’s reg­u­la­tions against a rur­al gold mine.

Sup­port­ers of the Sug­ar Pine mine tell the Mail Tri­bune that Bureau of Land Man­age­ment (BLM) offi­cials lied when they said mine own­ers George Back­es and Rick Bar­clay need­ed to file a plan with the agency for what they called pre­vi­ous­ly unknown min­ing activ­i­ty. The agency told Back­es and Bar­clay that they had to file a plan or remove their equip­ment.

Some of the pro­test­ers who con­gre­gat­ed in the agency’s park­ing lot were mem­bers of the Oath Keep­ers move­ment, an orga­ni­za­tion made up of for­mer and cur­rent law enforce­ment per­son­nel who vow to dis­obey gov­ern­ment orders they deem uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.

Mary Emer­ick, a spokes­woman for the Oath Keep­ers, told the Mail Tri­bune that vol­un­teers from the orga­ni­za­tion have been guard­ing the mine. She said those vol­un­teers came from var­i­ous parts of the west­ern U.S.

The armed vol­un­teers start­ed show­ing up last week after Bar­clay called upon them because he was afraid the agency would seize the equip­ment.

The min­ers con­tend they legal­ly con­trol all of the land and resources with­in the claim, which they say has been con­tin­u­ous­ly mined since the 1800s. The agency has said the land belongs to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and the min­ers have to file a plan of oper­a­tions if they want to con­tin­ue work­ing in the area.

(The min­ers) have a par­tic­u­lar inter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion that has not been rec­og­nized by any fed­er­al court,” BLM spokesman Tom Gorey told the Mail Tri­bune.

Although Bar­clay did call upon the armed vol­un­teers, he is look­ing to dis­tance him­self from any actions that could repli­cate what hap­pened in Neva­da last year.

In that case, hun­dreds of armed sup­port­ers of ranch­er Cliv­en Bundy faced off against BLM agents in April to stop a roundup of cat­tle from pub­lic land where Bundy had allowed his stock to graze near the town of Bunkerville.

Fed­er­al offi­cials accused Bundy of fail­ing to pay more than $1 mil­lion in graz­ing fees over more than 20 years. Bundy claimed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has no author­i­ty over the land.

Bureau offi­cials backed off, and Bundy and his sup­port­ers declared vic­to­ry. But BLM offi­cials say they are still pur­su­ing an admin­is­tra­tive and legal res­o­lu­tion of the dis­pute.

We are not look­ing for Bundyville. We are not look­ing to chal­lenge any­thing. We are just hold­ing our con­sti­tu­tion­al rights and prop­er­ty rights in reserve until we get our day in court,” Bar­clay said.

Accord­ing to agency offi­cials, the min­ers have filed an appeal to the Inte­ri­or Board of Land Appeals and a court date is expect­ed to be deter­mined by the board.

Gorey said the board is the “prop­er venue” for the min­ers’ claim to sur­face.