Mining Claim Maintenance Fee Refund Class Action

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Please be advised that the Opt-In Filing Deadlne passed on January 18, 2019. 

The United States Court of Federal Claims has certified a class action involving your right to obtain a refund of mining claim maintenance fees for the 2013 assessment year timely paid to the United States Secretary of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”).  The Court in Silver Buckle Mines, Inc. v. United States, Case No. 13-476C, has ruled that Silver Buckle Mines, Inc. is entitled to a refund of claim maintenance fees.

Prior to 1993 BLM required that mining claimholders conduct a minimum level of assessment work on their claims and comply with the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 annual filing requirements to continue holding their mining claims.  In 1993 Congress changed the law to require claimholders to pay an annual claim maintenance fee for each claim to BLM in lieu of assessment work and related filing requirements.

Congress changed the claim maintenance fees in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 eliminating the claim maintenance fees for unpatented lode mining claims, mill sites and tunnel sites (nonplacer claims) located before August 10, 1993.  Despite the statutory change, BLM issued regulations which continued to require payment of the claim maintenance fees for the 2013 assessment year for pre-August 10, 1993 unpatented nonplacer claims.

Recognizing the absence of statutory authority for payment of the 2013 maintenance fees, Silver Buckle Mines, Inc. commenced this lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims seeking a refund of claim maintenance fees paid for itself and other claimholders similarly situated.   The government denied the claim challenging jurisdiction; that any payment made was voluntary; that a refund would result in a windfall to plaintiff; and plaintiff faces a risk of forfeiture of its claim if the claim maintenance fees are recouped.

The Court has ruled that plaintiff is entitled to recover the 2013 maintenance fees paid on its pre-1993 unpatented nonplacer claims.  Neither the voluntary payment doctrine nor the anti-windfall doctrine bar plaintiff’s illegal exaction claim.  With regard to the risk of forfeiture of its mining claims, the Court has declared this issue beyond the scope of this case and the Court’s jurisdiction.  Nonetheless, the Court addressed the government’s argument that plaintiff could potentially face forfeiture of its 1993 unpatented nonplacer claims in the event the 2013 maintenance fees are recouped.  The government argues that under these circumstances plaintiff should have engaged in assessment work and completed certain filings.  However, the Court analyzed the government’s argument concluding that forfeiture under the circumstances would be unlikely.  All of the Court’s opinions and orders in this matter are links available on the Court Documents page.

If you received a Notice in this matter you have been identified as potentially eligible to participate in the case, but in order to participate you must file the Opt-In Claim Form no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, January 18, 2019.  You are eligible to receive a claim maintenance fee refund if you were the holder of all or any part of an unpatented lode mining, unpatented mill site, or unpatented tunnel site located pursuant to the mining laws of the United States prior to August 10, 1993, for which a claim maintenance fee for such claim or site for the 2013 assessment year was timely paid to the United States Secretary of the Interior.

YOU MUST SUBMIT YOUR OPT-IN CLAIM FORM ONLINE NO LATER THAN 11:59 P.M. EASTERN TIME, JANUARY 18, 2019, OR BY MAIL POSTMARKED NO LATER THAN JANUARY 18, 2019, AS DESCRIBED BELOW. 

YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND OPTIONS IN THIS LAWSUIT

ASK TO

BE INCLUDED

The Court has ruled that plaintiff, Silver Buckle Mines, Inc., is entitled to recover the 2013 maintenance fees paid on its pre-1993 unpatented nonplacer claims.  By asking to be included in this lawsuit you acquire the same right held by plaintiff to obtain a refund.  If you choose to be included in this lawsuit, you will be bound by the judgment of the court.  You give up any right to sue the federal government on your own, and at your own expense, for the same legal claims that have been alleged by plaintiff in this lawsuit.  However, upon your request the Court may permit your withdrawal from the Class after you have requested inclusion.

DO NOTHING

Get no benefits from the lawsuit.  Keep right to sue the federal government on your own and at your own expense.  By doing nothing, you will not be included in this lawsuit and you will have no right forever to any money that may come from this case.  However, you keep the right to sue the federal government on your own, and at your own expense, for the same legal claims alleged in this lawsuit, subject to any defenses asserted by the government.

 YOU CAN FILE YOUR “OPT-IN CLAIM FORM” SAFELY AND SECURELY ONLINE ON THE OPT-IN FILING TAB.  If you wish to submit your Claim Form by mail please call 866-673-9650 to receive a claim form by mail and a form will be mailed directly to you.  Fill it out and send it back to the independent Claims Administrator.