Liberty Miners Rally

Debbie Lueder, secretary of the Washington Prospectors Mining Association, demonstrates how to pan for gold at the association’s booth on Saturday in Liberty.

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LIBERTY — Children shrieked with excitement as they panned for gold, old friends chatted and laughed together and the whole crowd watched mining equipment demonstrations.

Whatever their reason for coming, attendees of the annual Miners Rally in Liberty over the weekend came away with a better idea of what miners in the Pacific Northwest do, and who modern-day miners are. 

Resources Coalition President Bill Thomas was on hand all three days of the event and said the goal of the rally was to present an accurate image of miners and the mining industry to the public and politicians alike.

“This is an opportunity for us to show people who we are and what we’re about. Those who don’t see it don’t know that we’re stewards of the land, not destructors of it,” Thomas said. “If mining piques your interest at all, come see us and find out about it before making any judgments.”

Sharing a message

Thomas was among several people who gave speeches on mining, natural resources and the environment over the weekend. The more than 600 attendees had the opportunity to hear about the history of Blewett Pass, fish biology and mercury’s potential effects on fish and human health. Thomas said the goal of the speakers was to provide attendees with information about mining that they may not have had otherwise, and to discredit misconceptions about the mining industry.

Alongside the chance for a mining education was the chance to see the fun side of the industry. Spectators could watch demonstrations of several types of mining equipment, including an antique arrastra, which is used to pulverize gold or silver ore. Children and adults were able to pan for gold in the nearby river or at the Washington Prospectors Mining Association’s booth, where the group had set up a trough of dirt and water from the river. 

“My favorite part of this whole event is the expressions on the kids’ faces when we let them pan and they get to the bottom, and there’s really gold there that they found,” Thomas said. “Even adults get so excited over that.”

Family friendly

Vendors sold their products to the rally goers, and mining and prospecting clubs and organizations were in attendance including the Bedrock Prospectors Club, North Central Washington Prospectors and the Shelton Rock and Mineral Society. 

On Saturday evening, attendees came together for a potluck, and after dark children and adults got to experience a real treasure hunt using metal detectors. Some attendees camped next to the rally site, while others drove in for the events each day.

Bob Carstensen, a dealer for White’s metal detectors and member of the Puget Sound Treasure Hunters Club, said the rally brings people together like a family.

“It’s like the old rendezvous,” Carstensen said. “We all come together here with a common goal.”

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