State of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has issued COVID-19 Disaster Order of Suspension No 2, suspending a long list of statutory and regulatory provisions. The list of suspended statutes includes AS 38.05.850 which authorizes the state to grant easements and rights-of-way for roads, pipelines, and other facilities associated with the extraction of minerals. Under
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (“Commission”) announced that it intends to withdraw its simplified proceedings rule effective November 25, 2019. The Commission’s Federal Register announcement is found here.
The simplified proceedings were originally published in a final rule by the Commission on December 28, 2010. The Commission’s intention was to streamline…
On Monday, September 30, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reinstated an Obama-era rule imposing heightened requirements for health and safety workplace examinations in surface metal and nonmetal mines. The reinstatement represents yet another volley in an already protracted regulatory process spanning two presidential administrations and multiple lawsuits.
The 2017 Obama-era rule, marking one of the administration’s final acts, required that:
- workplace exams had to be completed before miners begin work in the area examined;
- operators had to notify miners in the affected areas of conditions that might adversely affect health and safety;
- operators had to promptly initiate action to correct those adverse conditions;
- the workplace exam records had to include specific information, including, among other things, a description of all conditions found that might adversely affect health or safety and a notation as to when the corrective actions were complete; and
- records of the workplace exams had to be made available to MSHA and miner representatives upon request.
The rule initially went into effect on October 2, 2017. Just three days later, however, MSHA withdrew the rule, delaying the effective date to June 2018.
Following the 2017 election, the Trump administration published a revised rule that featured two key changes. First, examinations could be carried out either before work starts or as work was getting underway. Second, exam records no longer had to document adverse conditions, so long as the conditions were promptly corrected.Continue Reading MSHA Announces Reinstatement of 2017 Obama-Era Rule on Workforce Examinations
New rental rates are now in effect for state mining claims, leasehold locations, prospecting sites, and mining leases in Alaska. The new rental rates became effective on August 30, 2019, and thus are applicable to the rental year that commenced on September 1, 2019.
These increases were made by the State of Alaska Department of…
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has increased location and maintenance fees for mining claims on federal lands. The new location fee is $40, and the new maintenance fee is $165 per lode mining claim or site and $165 for each 20 acres or portion thereof for placer mining claims. The due date for all…
Alaska is different—it has moose hunters on hovercrafts, many large national parks, and certain unique federal laws. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that National Park Service laws and regulations of general applicability do not apply to inholdings within Alaska’s national parks. Sturgeon v. Frost, 587 U.S. ___ (2019).
While on a moose hunting trip twelve years ago, John Sturgeon was repairing his hovercraft on a section of the Nation River within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (a unit of the National Park System) when park rangers ordered him to stop using the hovercraft in the preserve. Mr. Sturgeon left that day without the benefit of his hovercraft and without a moose. He later sued, arguing that the Park Service ban on hovercrafts did not apply to the Nation River, a navigable river the bed of which is owned by the State of Alaska.
This case arose under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA). When the federal government designated national park lands in ANILCA, it swept tracts of nonfederal lands (state, Alaska Native corporation, and private inholdings) within the park boundaries. ANILCA provides that no state, Native, or private inholdings “shall be subject to the regulations applicable solely to public lands within [conservation system] units.” 16 U.S.C. § 3103(c). Nonetheless, the federal government claimed that the Park Service could regulate the inholdings like park lands.
Continue Reading National Park Service Regulations Do Not Apply to Inholdings in Alaska
The 2018 deadline to record affidavits of labor and pay rental on State of Alaska mining claims was disrupted by a 7.0 earthquake near Anchorage at 8:29 a.m. on Friday, November 30. As a result of the earthquake, the Department of Natural Resources’ Anchorage office and the State of Alaska Recorder’s Office closed, preventing the…
Secretary of the Interior Zinke has directed that the Bureau of Land Management immediately begin implementing the recommendations in his Sage-Grouse Review Team’s report, which was was released today, concerning the 2015 greater sage-grouse amendments to federal land use management plans. (Prior post on Sage-Grouse Review Team here.) Among other things, such as coordinating federal mitigation policy with state mitigation approaches, the Trump Administration will now be moving to “[r]emove all [sagebrush focal areas (SFAs)] and the management actions tied to SFAs.” This would include the pending withdrawal for up to 20 years of over 10 million acres of SFAs on public lands in six western states from mineral location and entry under the General Mining Law . (Prior posts on withdrawal here and here.) The report also recognizes a short-term “[n]eed to clarify under what circumstances or how the [land use management] plans recognize valid existing rights.” Because valid existing rights (i.e., a mining claim within which a valuable mineral deposit has been discovered) are relevant if a withdrawal is approved, this recommended clarification indicates that the Trump Administration may well withdraw the SFAs for a short time while it moves forward with amending the plans to remove the SFAs altogether.
Continue Reading Sage-Grouse: Short Flight for Pending 10 Million-Acre Withdrawal from General Mining Law?
On July 18, in Hopkins County Coal, LLC v. Perez, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion upholding two citations and an order issued to a mine operator, Hopkins County Coal, for its refusal to turn over certain personnel records requested by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during a § 105(c) discrimination complaint investigation. The mine operator challenged the request for the records on several grounds, arguing that the Secretary of Labor overstepped his authority because the records were not among those that the Mine Act requires operators to keep and also that neither the miner nor MSHA had ever told the mine operator what the factual basis was for the miner’s discrimination case.
Continue Reading U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds MSHA’s Right to Obtain Personnel Records from Mine Operators
Late Wednesday Secretary of the Interior Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3353 establishing a Sage-Grouse Review Team to review the Obama Administration’s 2015 amendments to federal land use management plans. To avoid listing the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, those plan amendments had proposed that over 10 million acres of “sagebrush focal areas” on public lands in six western states be withdrawn from mineral location and entry under the General Mining Law for up to 20 years. The new Sage-Grouse Review Team’s work will include recommending changes to the amended plans that “give appropriate weight to the value of energy and other development on public lands within BLM’s overall multiple-use mission.” Comprised of representatives from various Department of the Interior agencies and working with the U.S. Forest Service and state agencies, the Sage-Grouse Review Team is to provide a written report on or before August 6, 2017.
Continue Reading With Mining Law Segregation on 10 Million Acres to Expire in Three Months, Interior Forms Sage-Grouse Review Team