Hard Rock Mining Committee

JOSEPHINE COUNTY: ‘The brokest, richest county’ in Oregon.

This committee aims to benefit the county and our safety through economic development efforts in hard rock mining.

The county’s vast natural resources go well beyond the most frequently discussed resource: timber. In fact, it’s quite possible that the county’s mineral wealth far exceeds its timber wealth.

Through hard rock mining — a mineral development effort that has only a tiny environmental impact when done correctly (compared to timber harvesting and other types of mining) — the local economy can benefit and the county can take steps toward having a funded and healthy public safety system.

The county either directly owns or has a stake in a vast amount of timber land, much of which should also be classified as mineral lands and studied/developed for mining potential.

The county could benefit financially from this effort in three ways: economic development (jobs); royalties from production on county-owned lands; and the lease of county-owned mineral properties.

This committee is working on a plan to develop local infrastructure that could serve several hard rock mineral development efforts.  This would be a private business (or businesses) that would provide research, testing, general advice, processing services, educational services, and direct development efforts on public and private mineral lands in Southern Oregon.

Please visit this page and this website for regular updates on how mining could play a big role in the financial recovery and fiscal sustainability of Josephine County.



This committee organized a summit in 2014 to discuss the potential for hard rock mining as an economic driver in Josephine County. The keynote speaker was a worldwide expert on critical minerals.

View video of the event here:

Southern Oregon Minerals Summit – May 10 2014



The SOS Hard Rock Mining Committee seeks to provide education and research to help continue some of the work that the great governor Charles Martin started back in the 1930s.  In the middle of the Great Depression, Gov. Martin chose Josephine County as the place that could get Oregon back on its feet due to its vast and plentiful natural resources and mineral wealth.  Today, most of this wealth remains untapped. Modern mining methods could provide a huge boost to the local economy with very little environmental impact.

Michael Cope

This potential is clearly not new, but now is the time to make it happen.  This committee’s chair, Michael Cope, has developed a thorough library of research documenting the county’s vast mineral wealth and the very real economic potential of mining a mineral that has not been previously mined in Oregon.

In addition to gold and other precious metals, Josephine County has Tellurium — a mineral that was not popular until recently. There is now a vibrant global market in Tellurium because it’s one of the primary materials used to build solar panels. Therefore, the local economy has a potential to be a supplier to the solar panel industry (there are not many Te mines and in fact may not be any Te mines in operation in the US, making for an attractive market opportunity). See the following related article “Rock for a Hard Place.

Hard Rock (or narrow vein) mining causes minimal surface disruption and targets rich yet small veins of underground minerals. Most hard rock mines don’t operate in or right next to waterways. And, because of the nature of the rock in this area, most of it can be successfully mined without concern of chemical/environmental impact. These are some of the basic reasons why the environmental effect of hard rock mining is minimal. We’ve all heard the stories of mines that caused problems, but there are hundreds of historic hard rock mines in the immediate area that have operated without any problems and need to be further developed along with vast mineral properties that are as yet unstudied and undeveloped.

This committee seeks to investigate and provide recommendations on how to rebuild the hard rock mining industry in Josephine County. The committee’s work aims to include include education, research on pilot projects, and eventually assistance with property development.



• On August 1, 2013, this committee sent a letter to the JoCo Board of County Commissioners concerning Economic Development Efforts and the County’s Natural Resources.  The “specific recommendation to the Commissioners is that at least 50% of the County’s available restricted economic development (lottery allocation) funds be earmarked for the development of natural resource related businesses in Josephine County.” View the full letter HERE.

• The SOS Hard Rock Mining Committee also met with the Josephine County Commissioners in January 2014 and issued the following additional recommendations on Feb. 4, 2014:  1) It’s important to have a local assay lab.  2) The county owns numerous mineral properties and needs to launch one or two pilot projects to develop them and start generating a return on these properties.  3) The county should allocate a portion of available economic development dollars to natural resource related businesses in the county in future fiscal budgets. The full letter to the County regarding these recommendations can be found HERE.

• The committee also sent a follow up letter on these recommendations which can be read HERE. 


Below are links to videos to help you understand the history of mining potential in Josephine County:


• Oregon Trails: Mystery Metal” (NewsWatch 12, July 2012)

• Documentary video on the Benton Mine

• Also, please check out the following article in the Daily Journal of Commerce from Aug. 7, 2012 by clicking HERE.   The article quotes Michael Cope as saying: “Josephine County is the brokest, richest county in the state. It’s not the trees, it’s what’s under the trees.”


  •  Michael Cope is the Captain of this Committee; he encourages people to share their thoughts, and can be reached by email at amrcope@gmail.com .  Other committee members include Jay Meredith, Cliff Thomason, and Don Bellville.
Michael Cope

Leave a Reply

Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow button