Judge fines Gold Hill man, orders mine dismantled

Donald Bean is banned from operating on Sucker 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 that's 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, according to court records.

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 during a telephone interview Thursday in which he vowed to fight the ruling.

He 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."

Sucker Creek is a tributary of the East Fork of the Illinois River near Oregon Caves National Monument outside Cave Junction.

Bean said he named his operation Reelfoot after a large and notorious grizzly bear shot in Oregon in 1890 by Bean's great-grandfather, Purl Bean, and rancher Bill Wright.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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