MEDFORD, Ore. (Reuters) - The owners of an Oregon gold mine who called in armed activists to protect their claim amid a bitter land use dispute with the U.S. government have appealed a federal stop-work order, a mine co-owner said on Thursday.
About 100 mine supporters gathered peacefully outside a closed U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Medford to decry what they call federal overreach, even as the owners insist they want to avoid a high-profile standoff.
Sugar Pine Mine co-owner Rick Barclay told Reuters he has filed an appeal with a federal appellate review body and also requested a stay order to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from “doing any enforcement” before a hearing.
“All I want is my day in court, with my property intact,” Barclay said.
Bureau of Land Management spokesman Tom Gorey said in a statement that the appeal had been received and that the agency shares the mining claimants’ interest in peacefully resolving the matter through administrative channels.
The protesters in Medford, some flocking from other states, included members of the Oath Keepers activist network and other conservative groups.
“Do I regret calling (armed activists) in? No, not at all,” Barclay said. “I am ashamed that I have to in order to bring compliance of the law to my own government in my own country. It’s a sad state of affairs.”
At issue is a dispute over ownership records, Oregon Bureau of Land Management spokesman Jim Whittington said. The owners argue they have exclusive surface rights and need not follow federal regulations.
But Whittington said while the owners have mining rights, the surface rights were ceded to the agency in 1961 by the then-owners.
The miners say they want to avoid a standoff like last year’s fight between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government in which the Bureau of Land Management sought to seize cattle because Bundy refused to pay grazing fees. Federal agents ultimately backed down.
A Bureau of Land Management office in nearby Grants Pass was also closed on Thursday ahead of the protest. The agency said it had told employees to avoid the mine because of the armed activists.
Oath Keepers said more supporters were en route to fill jobs for a long-haul protest, from security to cooking. Bundy’s son, Ammon, said two family representatives had traveled to Oregon, and the family was monitoring the situation.
Reporting by Jim Urquhart in Medford, Oregon and Shelby Sebens in Portland, Oregon; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Eric Walsh, Bill Trott and Mohammad Zargham