Suction dredge mining in Oregon has increased dramatically over the past several years, and continues to this day though it's now illegal. This form of hobby mining peppers rivers and streams with platoon-like rafts, each equipped with a motor and hose used to suck up gravel from the stream bottom. Flecks of gold are then sorted out, and the remaining sediment is flushed back into the stream.
The harms of this kind of mining are well documented. Suction dredging degrades critical habitat for imperiled wildlife like salmon, as well as other highly sensitive frogs and fish. In the process it muddies waters and stirs up toxic plumes of mercury.
A new bill before the state legislature would help enforce the existing five-year moratorium on suction dredging in salmon habitat and develop stronger rules to protect Oregon's natural heritage and cover the costs of any illegal dredging that does occur. It's an important step, but what we need is a permanent ban.
January 26, 2016 Action Alert ID# 329
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