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Placerville Gold Mine Dispute Recalls Wild West Past

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(credit:  David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

(credit: David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

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PLACERVILLE, Calif. (AP) — The Wild West spirit of California’s Gold Rush is living on in a dispute between government agencies and a Sierra Nevada landowner.

Joseph Hardesty and his partners reopened the Big Cut Mine near Placerville in what authorities call an egregious case of illegal mining. They used heavy equipment to cut into a steep ridge that has a 160-year history of gold mining activity.

The El Dorado County district attorney charged Hardesty with 14 crimes, including four felonies, while the state leveled fines approaching $900,000.

Hardesty, 54, became a fugitive last week after failing to turn himself in as promised.

He says he has a historic right to mine nearly 150 acres he bought seven years ago as the price of gold began to rise.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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