Alaska Miners Seek Court Ordered Return Of Valuable Claims

Alaska Miners Seek Court Ordered Return Of Valuable Claims

By William Perry Pendley

DENVER - Three Alaska miners who sued U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar among others in Alaska federal district court after their claims were declared null and void by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on May 21 urged the court to grant them summary judgment (Mullikin v. Salazar, No. 10cv235, D. Alaska).  

Their October 2010 lawsuit followed a September 2010 refusal by the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) to rule if the BLM could claim a presumption of regularity in its treatment of their claims. Donald E., Judith, and Christopher L. Mullikin, all of Homer, challenge the BLM's invalidation of seventeen (17) mining claims in the Seward Peninsula because they timely provided the BLM with all the required documents and cured the failure of the BLM to process their claim documents in a timely manner. The Mullikins challenge the BLM's regulations, the refusal of the IBLA to overturn the BLM's actions, and the BLM's attempts to eject the Mullikins from their claims. In September 2011, the district court denied a motion by federal lawyers to dismiss the lawsuit.

"The IBLA decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, unlawful, and not in accordance with law; moreover, the BLM's regulations are unlawful," said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which represents the Mullikins.

On March 27, 2009, the Mullikins mailed completed small miner waiver certificates for the 2009-2010 assessment year to the BLM's Fairbanks office. They did not mail the forms by certified mail because they were mailing them well in advance of the September 1 filing deadline. On September 25, 2009, they received a telephone call from the BLM advising that it could not locate the Mullikins' certificates. The Mullikins offered to fax a copy of the certificates they had sent but were told not to bother. On November 12, 2009, the Mullikins sent the BLM duplicates of the March 27, 2009, cover letters and small miner waiver certificates and, on November 30, 2009, sent copies of recorded Affidavits of Annual Labor for the 2008-2009 assessment year with checks to cover the $10 per claim filing fee. The BLM cashed the checks and mailed receipts to the Mullikins.

On December 8, 2009, the BLM issued decisions voiding the Mullikins' claims but noting a right of appeal to the IBLA. On December 28, 2009, the Mullikins sent two other duplicate sets of the March 27, 2009 cover letters and completed small miner waiver certificates, to the Alaska State Office of the BLM and advised the BLM that the resubmitted certificates were timely under the cure provision because they were submitted within 60 days of the BLM's December 8, 2009, decision. On January 7, 2010, the Mullikins filed Notices of Appeal and Petitions for Stay with the IBLA.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in the Denver area. 

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