David Heinen: The mine — risk and reward
This resident reacts to the Union publisher's column & explains why the mine's compliance with "acceptable" standards is NOT good enough.
Don Rogers suggests (“Rise’s messaging less than golden,” Feb. 18) that every assault brought by Rise Gold on our county (water quality, noise, air pollution) will be OK because scientific standards will be used to define “acceptable” levels of disturbance.
Here is where I depart from his confidence: Measurements are made by science, but standards “acceptable levels of disturbance” are political judgments, and represent what official bureaucracies consider to be a ‘reasonable’ middle ground. For those on the other side of that comfort line, life can be hell.
Risk of adverse effects: noise, pollution, water:
Science can measure audible intensity — “noise” — with great accuracy, but bureaucrats set standards for what is acceptable. Here’s the rub: Humans vary widely in their tolerance for ambient noise, especially when it is constant and out of their control.
This is where science leaves the debate and politics enters by making a determination of what is OK. Auditory limits are set by a committee that decides how much volume you must tolerate from your neighbor’s party music, or the “take off” noise inevitable for those living under an airport.
What this means is that some people will be fine with the volume, and others will be driven crazy by the same noise. A constant rumbling deep within the earth may be barely noticeable to some, especially if they live far away from the site, but can be devastating to others, especially if the noise is constant.
Auditory measures were made during a brief test of the ambient noise from Rise Gold blasting. The official auditory acceptable standards were met, yet a neighbor’s letter to the union stated that she had to move to the back of her house in order to sleep.
Rise’s media person revealed that the treated water resulting from their operations would be potable (drinkable by accepted scientific standards) yet might taste funky, and be cloudy. Another scientific measurement judged acceptable by bureaucrats. The measure is scientifically accurate. The judgment of its acceptability is arbitrary and political.
And what’s in it for the unfortunate folks who will be bothered by this noise, this bad air, this possibly funky cloudy water? We need airports, and must manage annoying noise while balancing air traffic safety, but we don’t need this mine adventure, so why accept any level of downside at all?
Risk of Rise Gold being untrustworthy: Deception. I do agree with Don’s assessment of deception spewing from Rise — postcards broadcast to the community, pre-made out as supportive of the mine, and the phony survey which presented loaded questions like this: “If there were no problems, and a huge tax windfall for the county, and hundreds of well paying jobs made available, would you support the mine?”
Also, Rise Gold has demonstrated a willingness to be deceptive about the jobs they will provide (average salary $92,000 and 300-plus jobs) a statement derived from taking their full employment allocation and divided by the proposed 300-plus jobs, coming up with an average salary of $92,000.
Why don’t we get a breakdown of job classification, required experience, and salary? Who would believe that a trainee would be sent underground to learn the mining ropes at a salary of $92,000? Obviously, the big bucks will go out of town, county, state, and probably country, to highly trained engineers.
History: These Rise people have dumped on British Columbia. Banks Island Gold Ltd., which Mossman managed, went bankrupt because of 35 charges of failed compliance, and court cases continue to this day (Rondal Snodgrass O.V.2-22-22).
If we commit to this massive, invasive industrial operation in our small community, what guarantees do we have that Rise will not cut and run when things get tough, as they did in British Colombia?
Do we really expect that the officials in our small county will have the resources to restore the damage done to wells, aquifer, roads, and air quality if Rise fails to perform all the mitigation they have promised?
Currently, we are unable to completely restore environmental damage from mining done in the 19th century! At this point, it is reported that Rise has $400,000 in the bank.
Balance: I assert that there will be, for some at least, real downsides despite scientific “limits” from noise, pollution, diminished water quality and disruption, and on the other hand there is no guarantee of significant jobs, taxes, or successful mitigation in perpetuity.
In other words, guaranteed risks and no clear local reward. Bad deal.
David Heinen lives in North San Juan.
This opinion was originally published in The Union.