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Avila Lowrance: Can't Afford to Reopen This Mine

How important is clean air, good water, and reliable power in your life? The proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine puts all that at risk. Read the full letter in the Union.


Can Nevada County afford to share its precious but scarce resources with Rise Gold? Do we have enough good air, clean water, and available power in Nevada County to allow these valuable resources to be exploited by a junior mining company from Canada with a bad reputation?

I believe that these three precious resources are at high risk of being significantly diminished if Nevada County allows Rise Gold to reopen the Idaho Maryland Mine. They are not the only resources at risk, but let’s start at the top.


In 2020 the American Lung Association published the State of the Air Report, in which they evaluated the quality of Nevada County’s air. They gave us an “F.” The report accounted for both high ozone days and particle pollution.

If this mine is allowed, I believe dust will escape from it with continuous rock crushing, loading, hauling, unloading, spreading, and compacting. Air pollution will be increased further with a truck coming through town every five to 10 minutes, hauling and delivering tailings.

More than 100 trips per day is the current estimate. We already have twice the state average of chronic lung disease. We can’t afford any more.


Rise Gold plans to “dewater” the abandoned mine tunnels under 2,585 acres of Nevada County and send the water into little South Fork Wolf Creek. Their plan is to pump 3.6 million gallons every day for six months and another 1.2 for up to 80 years! Because the geology of groundwater in fractured rock is extremely complicated and unpredictable, private wells in the mineral rights area and nearby are at risk of failing or becoming contaminated.

Habitat destruction: The dewatering would treat little South Fork Wolf Creek like a storm drain, likely damaging the downstream riparian zone. In addition, Rise Gold plans to erase 75 acres of woodlands, grasslands, and chaparral, replacing them with giant built-up pads of mine tailings. We cannot afford to lose 75 acres of valuable habitat and risk the loss of private wells.


In order to protect our power grid, the Nevada County Energy Action Plan calls for a significant reduction of residential electric use by 2035 (42 gigawatt hours annually).

But the mine would require massive energy usage that would be a whopping 12% of what all of Nevada County uses annually (an estimated 42 billion watt hours per year).

This would strain our power grid and completely erase our county’s planned cuts, which are designed to save the environment, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and curb climate change. In other words, the mine would erase our planned gains.

We already struggle with power shutoffs when PG&E can’t keep up with the demand on hot summer days, not to mention our new reality of Public Safety Power Shutdowns. Dramatic increases in demand will likely cause power interruptions for local businesses, homes, and for people who need medical support.

With our vulnerability to wildfires and the potential loss of lives and community, we cannot afford the weakening of our power grid and the threat of even more shutdowns during the warm, dry season.

Nevada County cannot afford this mine.


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