Gold miner fined, loses case over claim on salmon stream

A federal magistrate in Medford has recommended a gold miner pay nearly $200,000 in fines and attorney's fees and stop working his claim on a Southern Oregon salmon stream.

The miner, Donald Bean, of Gold Hill, says he expected the finding to be filed this week in U.S. District Court in Medford. The magistrate's recommendations still must be approved by a judge.

Court records say Bean acted as his own attorney and never responded to the Clean Water Act case brought by Rogue Riverkeeper, a project of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland.

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

Bean started working the claim on federal land along Sucker Creek outside Cave Junction in 2010, after his construction business went sour.

Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke found that Bean failed to get the proper permits for discharging pollutants into the creek, and his excavations harmed critical habitat for coho salmon, a threatened species.

Clarke recommended fines of $96,150, which works out to about $37.50 for each of the 2,654 violations Bean built up, as well as $81,396.50 in fees for Rogue Riverkeeper's attorneys.

The magistrate also recommended barring Bean from further work on the placer mine, and requiring him to restore the site by filling in two mining pits, removing a berm and a road, and restoring vegetation.

Sucker Creek was mined heavily during the Gold Rush of the 1850s, and logged heavily before habitat protections for salmon put the brakes on timber production in the 1990s. About $750,000 worth of restoration work has been done on the creek where it runs inside the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

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