Bob Hubbard: Three gold mining stories tell different tales
Rise Gold wants approval for their project, so they tell three main stories: One about jobs, another about economics, and a third about environmental impact. The key is that very few people reading the stories compare one to the other — or to the detailed data underneath them
The following opinion piece was originally published in The Union.
April 8, 2023
What’s happening with the Rise Gold proposal is a story about stories. Rise wants approval for their project, so they tell three main stories: One about jobs, another about economics, and a third about environmental impact. For Rise, the key is that very few people reading the stories compare one to the other — or to the detailed data underneath them.
JOBS – Big promises that don’t hold up when you look closely
The jobs story is designed to attract workers with the large dollars being offered in Rise’s marketing program. Virtually none of the locally recruited jobs at Rise are available anytime soon. Construction will take at least 3 years (based on Rise assertions) and up to 6-10 years (based on industry averages). Most of the local hires will work 2,300ft or more underground for 12 hours/shift for 4 days on/4 days off (the story recently changed from 7days on/7days off to 4). The jobs story doesn’t talk about the negative effects of 12 hours shifts, working graveyard, or missing time with your family because you effectively have a single parent household for half the year.
The math in Rise’s promotional materials does not add up. For instance, the Underground Mining jobs in Table 2 show annual wages much higher than the same jobs in Table 3. The introduction even says: “Actual wages during operations are subject to applicant experience and labor market conditions.”
The bottom line is that even if the annual dollars look good, what is being offered is a long way from “good jobs”.
ECONOMICS – Presenting best case scenarios to sell the deal
The economic story is based solely on data provided by Rise. That data shows Rise costs to produce an ounce of gold are half of the industry average, which leads to low expenses. When you have low expenses, you can show high profits. High profits make the contribution to the County General Fund look good. As long as you don’t compare the numbers provided by Rise to standard financial reporting, or industry averages, or other gold mining operations, the data appears to make sense. Not so much when you study the numbers.
Rise wants the jobs part of the story to focus on annual wages, so they summarized information from a report by The World Gold Council (WGC). However, the WGC report also says:
“...higher wages due to the presence of a mine can lead to price inflation for housing, food and essential services in the mine’s vicinity, leaving workers and households who are not part of the supply chain with lower purchasing power.”
So, virtually everyone not working at Rise is negatively impacted for 80 years.
ENVIRONMENT – Hiding behind compliance standards and weak excuses
The environmental story is similar, promising that nothing bad will happen at any time for any reason for 80 years. This story also includes “mitigations” where something actually is bad but is modified to make it less bad than some arbitrary standard. It’s still much worse than it was before the mine, but the story says you are supposed to be ok with that. For this story, Agencies, Groups and individual commenters on the Draft EIR have been met with aggressive, arguably biased, responses in the Final EIR. These responses often claim that Draft EIR comments are speculation or responds with some form of “we can’t afford to do it that way” when an alternative is proposed, or an additional mitigation is requested.
As long as you don’t study the asbestos controls, waste rock disposal, diesel emissions, many other inadequate responses, or the economics of “we can’t afford it”, the story holds water. Not so much when you look at the data.
TAKEN TOGETHER – A huge negative impact for Nevada County
Taken individually, some parts of each story seem to make sense. Taken together, the only story that really matters is one of a huge negative impact on the future of Nevada County.
Please contact your Nevada County Supervisor and demand they “Just Say NO” to the Final EIR and Rise Gold proposal. This link provides a set of facts and an easy way to submit a letter: https://www.minewatchnc.org/send-a-letter.
Bob Hubbard, Grass Valley