Miner fined, ordered to stop placer mining and restore creek

A federal judge fined a Gold Hill man Wednesday and ordered him to dismantle his placer mining operation along the banks of an Illinois River tributary, which is home to protected salmon, and restore the banks and side channels.

Miner Donald Bean is banned from any work at his Reelfoot operation along the banks of Sucker Creek until he complies with federal Clean Water Act regulations he's accused of breaking regularly during operations dating back to July 2010, court records show.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke's order requires Bean to remove a berm, dam and two roadways he built on the mining claim and restore the area to its pre-mining condition, according to the order.

Sucker Creek is federally protected critical habitat for the Rogue River basin's wild coho salmon, which are protected as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Clarke ordered Bean to pay a fine of more than $96,000 and more than $81,000 in fees to attorneys representing Ashland-based Rogue Riverkeeper, whose civil suit led to the judgment.

Bean represented himself in court filings that argued Riverkeeper and co-plaintiff Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center had no right to sue him, that the Clean Water Act does not apply to his operation and that Clarke's court was not the place to argue about mining operations.

"I figured that was coming," Bean said when reached by telephone today.

He vowed to fight the ruling, but declined further comment.

KS Wild Conservation Director George Sexton said he hopes Bean will comply with Clarke's order and stop polluting Sucker Creek and degrading habitat on his claim on Bureau of Land Management lands.

"He trashed a riparian preserve that belongs to all of us," Sexton said. "All we want out of it is for him to stop the illegal activity and fix what he's done."

— Mark Freeman

Read more in the Mail Tribune Friday.

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