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Sens. Murkowski, Begich Introduce Fix to Help Small Miners


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Small Miner Waiver Clarification Act was reintroduced today by Alaska’s U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. The legislation would clarify federal mining law to remedy a problem that has arisen from the extension process for “small” miner land claims.

“The existing law is clearly falling short of what it was designed to do – exempt small miners from the claim maintenance fee,” Murkowski said. “The bill we introduced today provides a simple administrative fix to remedy this problematic and unfair situation.”

“Small miners in Alaska are generating real revenues and good jobs throughout our state but unfortunately still face administrative hurdles that can put their operations in jeopardy,” Begich said. “This bill will relieve some of the burden for scores of family mining operations.”

Background

Under revisions to the Federal Mining Law of 1872, holders of unpatented mineral claims must pay a claim maintenance fee – currently $125 – by a set deadline.

Congress has also provided a claim maintenance fee waiver for miners with 10 or fewer claims. To qualify for the exemption, however, small miners must file to renew their claims and submit an affidavit of annual labor by Dec. 31st each year.

The waiver provision further states that miners with defective claims are allowed 60 days following written notification of the defect or defects by the Bureau of Land Management to: A) cure such defect or defects or (B) pay the claim maintenance fee due for such a period.

Since the last revision of the law, there have been a series of incidents where miners have argued that they submitted their applications and affidavits of annual labor in a timely manner, but due to unexplained reasons, the documents were not recorded in a timely fashion.  The BLM has then moved to terminate the claims.

While claim holders have argued that the law provides them time to fix claim defects, BLM has argued that it only applies when applications or fees have been received in a timely manner. Thus, there is no administrative remedy for miners who believe clerical errors by BLM or mail issues caused the loss or late recording of claim extension applications.

This bill attempts to clarify this process by requiring that the BLM inform any miners whose claims are in jeopardy of being terminated.  Miners will then have 60-days to remedy the situation. If all defects are not cured within 60 days, then claims will still be subject to termination.

This legislation will resolve two pending cases in Alaska.

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