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Trump Administration Agrees to Keep Hands Off SW Oregon Mining Ban

Forest Service - USDA
The Smith River as it passes through the Six Rivers National Forest near Gasquet, OR. The UK-based Red Flat Nickel Corporation proposed a nickel mine near the headwaters of the Smith.

A Utah Congressman’s attempt to get the Trump Administration to reverse an Obama-era ban on mining in southwest Oregon has failed.

Nickel mines proposed in recent years around creeks and rivers near the Kalmiopsis Wilderness ran into stiff local opposition. At the urging of Congressman Peter DeFazio and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, the Obama Administration placed 100,000 acres off-limits to mining for 20 years.

Last year, Representative Rob Bishop of Utah called the ban illegal, and asked the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to overturn it. DeFazio, Merkley and Wyden urged the Trump Administration to let the designation stand.

This week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue wrote to the lawmakers, assuring them he has no plans to re-open the issue.

Ann Vileisis, with the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society in Curry County, is pleased.

“The headwaters of these rivers we that have in southwest Oregon is really no place for a mine,” she says. “That’s why it’s just such a relief the Secretary of Agriculture considers this a done deal.”

Senator Ron Wyden agrees.

“I’m pleased Secretary Perdue is not second-guessing what Oregonians have overwhelmingly said through the public participation process,” he says. “These natural resources are …a treasure that ought to be protected from mineral exploitation. Today’s decision is another step towards making sure that’s possible.”

Red Flat Nickel Corporation -- the foreign-owned company which proposed the most recent mine – could not be reached for comment. The company had expressed hopes the Trump Administration would overturn the ban.

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.