Sheri Samson
Independent miner John Keady was told that his Last Chance Mine in the Mount Diablo Meridian was null and void.

When John Keady, independent miner and owner of Rock Chuck in Schurz, received a certified letter dated Jan. 27, from the United States Department of the Interior – Bureau of Land Management (BLM) out of Reno, he never dreamt it would be declaring his Last Chance Mine in the Mount Diablo Meridian of Mineral County “null and void”.

As Nevada mining procedures have always been, Keady had scoped out this mine on Sept. 3, 2016, then filed his paperwork in person on Nov. 7, 2016, to stake his claim within the 90-day allotted time at the BLM office. The acceptance naming him claimant, with an active serial number status arrived by mail Nov. 14, 2016 with no hitch, allowing him to continue his investment into his mining operation, retrieving unique agate specimens he was trademarking with specific names.

Perplexed by this timeline and a new January letter now stating, “Your unpatented lode mining claim was located on Sept. 3, 2016 on lands closed to mineral location and entry at the time of location,” he began to research what had happened.

Calling the BLM, representative Mike Myers instructed Keady that a petition of appeal could be filed and heard by an interior board who would review it for errors. Myers also stated that federal decisions could not be appealed and any financial hardship could be noted in the written appeal. Keady’s initial claim fee of $192 would be refunded after the land was properly restored. In asking why miners were not informed of this situation ahead of time, Myers stated that it was not required at the application process.

Still frustrated by this response, Keady says he researched further by re-reviewing the Fallon Airspace Extension and Modification booklet handed out at the Oct. 3-7, 2016, town hall meetings for the Fallon Training Complex and Navy Warfare “Scoping Meetings” held in Fallon; Lovelock; Reno; Austin; Eureka; Hawthorne and Gabbs. Since a nine page, legal document accompanied his January 2017 certified revocation letter, which summarized that this was done in relationship to a possible withdrawal of public land with the Department of the Navy application, Keady began questioning the back of that town hall brochure, which listed many future years of development in the Environmental Policy Act Process and Timeline.

In referring to “potential environmental impact for each identified alternative” he easily saw that these dates were still two years away from his claim’s acceptance date, which would’ve still allowed him time to properly mine and recover some of his current investment.

With such discrepancies, Keady says he reached out for assistance. In contacting Rudy Evenson, Deputy Chief of Communications from the Reno BLM office, Keady’s public situation was reviewed to reveal that the navy’s presentation failed to include a standing rule which states that the BLM must “segregate named land in a two-year time frame from mining/mineral use” which can then be drawn into a 20-year segregation with no claims accepted and a possible no use containment issued.

“Mining acts go back to 1872, but there was an updated 1976 federal law which involves the BLM segregating the land, if we are asked to change the land status, at two years prior. This unfortunately affected ten other current claimants and 53 mining claims in the same area, although older claims are currently grandfathered in for now without the same submission dates falling after the Sept. 2, 2016,” Evenson explained.

Evenson went on to admit a failure with the BLM clerks for not catching this prior to issuing Keady’s claim request, stating, “it appears our agency didn’t catch up with itself in time to reject his initial claim request.”

Evenson concurred that the term “environmental” would indicate to the average person as including minerals or mining rights, but it actually holds a separate place within the Department of Interior and with the BLM. “Segregating minerals and mining land prior to general use in any land change is not a new ruling,” he reiterated.

In asking about proper public notice regarding mining closures within this area, Evenson stated that a statement of the Sept. 2, 2016 printed version was posted on the Federal Registry, as a “Notice of Application for Withdrawal Expansion” with a response date of comments closing Dec. 1, 2016. (Sent as a supplementary attachment to this notification was the Navy’s publication of the town hall October meeting dates in public discussion for the Fallon Range Expansion project.) It was also sent out as a standard news reel, optional notification, which was only picked up by KOLO TV and KOH radio, with a brief announcement given, whereas the Fallon Training Expansion town hall meetings had been advertised within local newspapers and in public announcements to ensure a saturation of those potentially involved.

Keady admitted as to never visiting the Federal Registry site, adding that his mining access sustains his business as a sole source income, keeping him busy seven days a week.

“I would’ve never had a reason to go to the Federal Registry website. If I go by the Navy’s presentation, I had a good two years to mine at Last Chance before anything was closed down, and even at that the Fallon base had no guarantees it would pass through all the public’s hurdles. Even a couple of years could’ve given me time to complete some solid mining and get my investment back. The town hall meetings never addressed this BLM segregation land aspect, which seems unfair to those of us caught in the cross-hairs now. No matter what, these time lines do not sync up and I had an active mine approved by the BLM,” Keady shared.

Presently Keady is submitting his appeal paperwork, including a request of stay so he can extend time involved within his current investment and to offset a possible loss. He would also like to speak to other area miners caught within the same situation, within this mining district.