Miners sue state of Oregon over dredging ban aimed to protect salmon

Miners sue state of Oregon over dredging ban aimed to protect salmon

Oregon's waterstreams are rich in salmon, trout, steelhead and bass. (Image from WikiMedia Commons)

A coalition of U.S. gold miners has sued the state of Oregon over a five-year ban on most suction dredging, a technique that uses floating vacuums to suck gravel from the bottom of a water stream so it can be mined for metals.

The group argues that Oregon's new law violates federal laws that have guaranteed mining access on U.S. lands since the 1870s, The Mail Tribune reports.

State lawmakers passed a bill in 2013 that placed restrictions on the use of motorized devices during in-stream mining of precious metals in a region with deep economic and cultural ties to both gold prospecting and migratory salmon.

The ban was supposed to end at the end of 2015, giving legislators time to formulate permanent rules. They never did.

Medford Democrat Sen. Alan Bates told The Mail Tribune he plans to introduce legislation that would keep dredging restrictions on the table. If that happens, the current ban would be allowed to continue.