April 24, 2018 

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From the Sixteen to One Archives


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 By Michael Miller

02/14/2018  12:38PM

I’m writing a brief for the two citations heard last August. MSHA agents rely on history of citations issued to a mine operator to levy penalties. During this hearing the inspector admits to her careful review of past citations and used it to speculate on our negligence; however under questioning she admits that the actual situation she saw on September 21, 2016, didn’t resemble the historic situations she reviewed. She went ahead and testified that the past history elevated the negligent. Is this justified?

Our mining operation also has a history regarding MSHA performance. The federal government will not be proud to acknowledge the past of this most valuable agency. Over my life as a responsible person for the safety of our miners, MSHA has been a root cause in harming the miners. It must change, and I sense that it will as more responsibility flows from Washington DC to its agents. Below is a correspondence I found while preparing this brief.

MSHA Archive from 1997
A subtle but perhaps most serious side effect of the agency’s and its agents’ behaviors over the past thirty months can be found in the minds of our young miners. As we train and give ongoing guidance to the nuances of underground mining, they are witnessing unreasonable behavior from a powerful force or authority. It is MSHA. Quite naturally, they are confused regarding the interpretation of this behavior. MSHA continues to create problems where none exist. MSHA has become the ones that place underground bombs throughout the land only to then offer to cure the threat of harm by becoming the ones to remove the buried, potentially lethal hazard. Does this make any sense?

Federal supervisor Bill Wilson, MSHA district office in Vacaville, warned, threatened, and intimidated that I and Original Sixteen to One Mine will receive federal citations if profanities such as the ones their traveling investigators have been experiences in Alleghany did not cease. He said we would be cited because we would be intimidating the agents. Wow. This action by Wilson obviously demonstrates and displays his furious ability to regulate and expression to intimidate. He threatened the FBI as well. What were the profanities? Several miners’ wives gave them the finger as they drove through Alleghany in their federally licensed cars.

I only imagine if they enact these threats, MSHA will master its goals of eliminating or taking over the operating of the mine(s). For without an independent or peer group determination of justice, our powerful Congressional granted agency gets in step with governments and largest conglomerated corporate organizations. Mineral extraction is big business. California is anti mining.

Distant federal agents who foster a program of intimidation and extortion stepped up their program to control the operations of mining in the United States. Slow but steady progress towards this goal enveloped the large mining companies. Why did the giants go down first? The top commanders of the large companies found the federal government a strong ally in crushing small companies and individuals seeking minerals. The reward: eliminate competition. Are there other reasons as well?

Little differences appear between the “want-to-be police enforcer” mentally displayed by field agents and a “want-to-be Perry Mason” advocate called the U.S Solicitors. My quest of discovery moves from Alleghany (the mine) and Vacaville (the field and regional headquarters of MSHA) to San Francisco (the lawyers). In this investigation, the route from San Francisco to Washington DC is very direct.

Find a way to inform Americans. Find local reporters to write an article. Contact national television personalities to do a story or interview. Our cash flow woes are a result of not finding enough gold. Our miners and company have been occupied with unreasonable demands by MSHA. We were unable to break enough rock for the statistical averages of success at our extreme high-grade gold mine to unfold.

Once a round (the daily footage advanced by an underground crew) is lost, it is never recovered. MSHA forced us to miss many rounds. Its unreasonable application of law (An Act of 1977) shifted from field agents and regional administration to US Solicitors offices in San Francisco. The country must begin looking into the behavior of a group of career federal lawyers. It seems to me that these lawyers have forgotten whom they represent. Like other silly and truly dedicated government employees, they are public servants for the tax paying American people. They forget the purpose of their work. Like poor little lambs, they have lost their way. For MSHA, it forgot the purpose it was created.
 By Michael Miller

11/30/2017  4:36PM

The Mountain Messenger
California’s Oldest Weekly Newspaper
Downieville, Sierra County, California

November 17, 1917

Items of Local Interest about Sierra’s Mines
There is a queer mix-up in the decision of the jury which tried the Sixteen-to-One vs. the Twenty-One case in San Francisco recently, and a new trial will have to take place. A report of the verdict in a San Francisco paper says:

Although a jury in the United States district court gave a verdict in the Sierra county mining suit of the Original Sixteen-to-One Mine Company vs. the Twenty-One Mining Company last Thursday, no judgement has been entered by the clerk of the court. The verdict read: “We the jury, finding favor of the plaintiff and assess the damages against the defendants in the sum of $100,000 less cost of extraction of the ore on account of unwilling trespass.”

The defendant’s claims $78.000 as the cost of extraction. The verdict was returned at midnight and handled seal to the United States Marshal. The jury then went home. On presentation of the verdict of Judge Frank H. Rudkin the following morning, the judge said he would not order the judgement entered, as the verdict was too uncertain, and that he could not order the jury to correct it, as it had been discharged. The verdict then had to remain in midair. The trial occupied nearly four weeks, and involved mining property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. During the course of the trial, moving pictures of the mines in operation were thrown upon a screen in the court room.
 By Michael Miller

07/12/2017  11:14AM

In 2001, Mr. Gage McKinney released his book, “When Miners Sang” about the Grass Valley Carol Choir. The Forward written by Professor Philip Payton, Director, Institute of Cornish Studies at University of Exeter, Truro, Cornwall informs us of McKinney’s strengths as an historian, former president of the California Cornish Cousins and depth of his humanity, humility and great affection for this subject. Just reading the Forward took some air from my lungs in excitement. Here is the first paragraph of the book’s introduction.

“Christmas Eve in the early 1940’s. The Nazis were terrorizing Europe and the Luftwaffe pounding Britain night after night. In relative serenity a typical American family gathered quietly at home and within the sound of a radio. The set crackled and then came a voice, not from Washington or London or some falling outpost, but from a place far removed from the strife, from the depths of a gold mine in California, a stronghold of granite and dripping water. In words similar to these the announcer spoke:”

“To all America, from coast to coast, a merry Christmas from Grass Valley, California—where the Cornish Carol Choir is singing.” The singers raised their voices, beginning the carol “While Shepherds Watched
Their Flocks by Night” to the tune of an old hymn. It was a Christmas custom and tradition beginning 78 years ago by Cornish miners, who had come to golden California and gathered in Grass Valley.

In 1993, I took a phone call from team members of Huell Howser’s California Gold about bringing the Cornish Choir into the Sixteen to One mine. I knew that current miners sing underground (I still do) because it sounds so good and over several calls worked out a plan for his TV show. One stope in the mine stands out from all others. We called it “The Ballroom”. This is where the crew worked on its own time to prepare for the Cornish Choir to perform.

The miner volunteers could invite a guest, but we had to be very quiet during the filming. After the choir the miner band set up their instruments and the first live music played in the mine. Listening to the Cornish Choir and their comments to Huell was a thrilling experience for all. Following is the author’s account on pages 258-59 of that time when a bunch of us recreated the historic radio program deep in an underground California gold mine.

“In the early 1990s the story of the choir was told with dramatic flair on California Gold (episode #413), a popular television series. The program, produced by Huell Howser, presented the choir in historical settings, in the Methodist sanctuary and on the street of Grass valley, and in a gold mine. Sixteen singers and their director took to four-wheel drive vehicles for a wintertime trek to the tiny community of Alleghany in Sierra County. There they climbed into the skips that carried them underground into the Sixteen-to-One mine, one of the last in production. In their parkas and hardhats, the singers descended an inclined shaft lined in white quartz, and the left the skips to file deeper into the mine, and to eventually reach a chamber like the one in which the carolers had sung in 1940.

Before their performance began, the carolers were treated to a pasty dinner. The meal prompted Mel Jones to remark that his father ate a pasty every day in the mine. For Jones in was the first time he had been underground since working his way through college more than fifty years before. For Brian Bennallack and Harold T. George it was their first trip underground since the national broadcasts. Having eaten and regained their wind, the carolers gathered to sing “Sound! Sound!”

As he recorded them, sound technician Eric Rice of KVMR Radio discovered something technicians probably noticed in 1940: the jagged walls of rock eliminated echoes and distortion. “The room is so lively,” Rice remarked. “It doesn’t matter where I set the microphone.”

The small group of voices sang several carols, closing, of course, with “Diadem”. With only sixteen voices they could not reproduce the big sound that a full chorus of workingmen had produced during the war, but they could show the tradition was still treasured. And because the program repeats every Christmas on Public Broadcasting System stations, the Carol Choir has reached its widest audience ever”.



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