Tribe sues over suction mining

Lawsuit claims suction dredging destroys habitat, Indian culture

In response to the potential return of suction dredges to mine for gold in California’s rivers, the state’s Karuk Tribe, salmon fishermen and conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game.

The lawsuit, filed April 2, maintains the state’s dredging regulations do not follow environmental law and fail to protect salmon habitat, according to The Washington Post. The suction dredges used by recreational gold miners can destroy salmon habitat by altering the bottom of riverbeds, releasing mercury left over from the Gold Rush and generating silt that covers salmon beds, environmentalists say. The Happy Camp-based Karuk Tribe originally sued the department in 2009, at which point a seven-year moratorium was issued.

“Until the moratorium was passed, gold miners were still allowed to destroy our rivers, our fisheries and our culture,” said tribe member Leaf Hillman. “Fish and Game will let them resume the destruction in 2016 unless the new regulations are dramatically improved.”