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Concerned Citizens Roundtable: Idaho-Maryland Mine propaganda vs. the truth

Rise Grass Valley’s advertising boasts the mine’s “minimal environmental impacts.” That’s like saying the Donner Party suffered only ants at their picnic.

This opinion piece was first published in The Union.


Apr 12, 2023

Rise Grass Valley’s advertising boasts the mine’s “minimal environmental impacts.” That’s like saying the Donner Party suffered only ants at their picnic.

Intent exclusively on churning our county for profit, RGV issues propaganda that disintegrates in the light of truth. The proposal’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), however deficient in some areas, actually predicts devastating damage to our water, air, traffic, fire safety, health, and quality of life.

According to RGV, for example, “The dewatering of the existing mine and new mining have very limited effect on the water table.”

“Limited effect” for people who don’t live here, that is. No one can confidently say that the water table won’t significantly drop. Mining history is full of operators’ cheerful assurances, and equally full of exactly those disasters. The Siskon gold mine on San Juan Ridge is one example. In 1995 miners drilled into an unexpected fault. The subterranean water vanished, and wells as far as two miles away went dry. And south of here, in Jamestown, Tuolumne County taxpayers got stuck with a cleanup bill of $5 million when industrial gold miners left town after fouling 180 private wells with heavy metals.

As for air quality, RGV promises “zero emission underground mining.” But at the surface, where most of us breathe, it’s a different story. The EIR states that mitigated (that is, best case scenario) air emissions will include 105 lbs of known poisons and carcinogens daily during the first year of operation. The Report says that amount isn’t significant, but fails to calculate that over the mine’s eighty-year operation it will emit 3,600 tons of these poisons, not including 200,000 annual minutes of diesel idling. The California Air Resources Board estimates that 70% of our risk of getting cancer from what we inhale comes from diesel exhaust. Children will be especially affected, as they’ll breathe these poisons their whole lives.

How about noise? Don’t worry, says RGV, it won’t be significant. A renowned acoustics consultant, Salter Associates, disagrees: “...nighttime industrial activities amongst a community that currently enjoys low ambient noise levels represents a significant risk for project noise to impact the community, annoy residents, and cause sleep disturbance.”

RGV is embarrassingly revealing in what its misleading ads fail to say.

RGV doesn’t mention, for example, that it will pump 3.6 million gallons of mine water daily into Wolf Creek for 6 months, then 1.2 million gallons daily until 2102.

It doesn’t mention blasting 1,900 lbs of explosives beneath Grass Valley every day. Salter Associates states, “...strongly perceptible and borderline unpleasant vibration on a regular basis for the rest of [residents’] lives should be considered a significant impact.”

RGV admits that its tailing-hauling trucks — 20-ton mammoths — will run every 20 minutes, 16 hours every day, but that’s only one way; presumably they’ll return, too.

It doesn’t disclose that its emission of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, will exceed 16 million lbs every year. A car would need to drive 1,600 years to emit that amount.

Nor do RGV ads mention asbestos, the vicious carcinogen assumed to lurk in the mine’s rock. Shorter asbestos fibers, which are difficult to detect, carry a high risk of malignant mesothelioma. Since the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District isn’t equipped to monitor shorter fibers, asbestos tests on tailings of 1,000 tons daily will necessarily be done elsewhere, a two-week turnaround. There’s no plan for storing this material in the interim.

RGV fails to state that the mine would nullify Nevada County’s Energy Action Plan, which calls for a reduction of roughly the same amount of electricity that the mine will use every year.

Astoundingly, RGV claims with a straight face that the project enjoys strong local support.

Quite the contrary. RGV’s clumsily biased “surveys” grossly misrepresent results, even including as “supporters” residents who are publicly vocal opponents. At a 2022 Planning Commission meeting, 100 residents spoke knowledgeably and passionately against the proposal, with only a single speaker favoring it. And if the mine will truly deliver the prosperity RGV claims, why has not a single business entity declared support for it — not a Chamber of Commerce, not the Economic Resource Council, not the Downtown Association, not the Board of Realtors.

The Environmental Impact Report should not be certified, as it ignores significant threats. But even in its inadequacy, it predicts devastation of our community.

We urge residents to attend the Nevada County Planning Commission hearings May 10 and 11, and oppose certifying the EIR. Sometime after that our five county supervisors will decide whether to permit the mine. We doubt any of our supervisors wholeheartedly support the proposal. If they oppose it, their hand will be strengthened by a massive attendance of citizens at both hearings.

Yasha Aginsky

Rob Agrimonti

Charlie Brock

Jeff Gold

Jeff Kane

Scott Kellermann

Brad Miller

Randall Newsome

Kathy Ogburn

Tim Ogburn

Rondal Snodgrass


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