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★ David J. Whitehead: Mine would undermine climate change solutions

The mine report uses categorization to stay below arbitrary, outdated thresholds, says Citizen's Climate Lobby Nevada County chapter Director David Whitehead.

This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.


All across California, communities work hard to address climate change. We develop plans for increased recycling and increased renewable energy use. We support our local farms to improve sustainable food production. We purchase low-emission cars, appliances, and sustainable energy sources. And we know we have to increase our efforts to meet our goals. Our challenges ahead are truly substantial.

Four years ago, I helped form the Nevada County Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education, joining the efforts of other non-profit organizations already working on climate.

You may have seen our chapter volunteers at the farmers markets. We have met over 600 community members who want to learn how to take climate action. We work with local churches on climate education and action programs. We lobby candidates and our elected officials to support real climate change solutions.

So when I read the draft environmental impact report for the Idaho-Maryland Mine proposal, I was very disappointed.

Rise Gold proposes to generate significant amounts of carbon and greenhouse gasses every year. If you take their estimates at face value, they would create over 3,500 metric tons of CO2 during construction, and over 9,000 metric tons during operations. These emissions would be new to our community, and they would undermine state of California climate goals.

State Assembly Bill 32 (2006) set carbon emission goals for 2020. California’s Climate Scoping Plan (2017) sets goals for 2030 and beyond. To meet these goals, every community must reduce emissions. Rise Gold’s proposal ignores these goals.

Rise Gold proposes to purchase carbon offsets in California’s cap and trade markets during “construction” only. Using categorization to stay below arbitrary, outdated thresholds, Rise Gold would not mitigate their emissions during the following 78 years of operations. Rise Gold proposes to mitigate approximately 2,500 metric tons of CO2 per year when they call it construction. Then, when they call it operations, they wouldn’t mitigate any of carbon dioxide they produce annually. They may produce more than 700,000 metric tons of the greenhouse gas over the life of the project.

Particularly galling is that Rise Gold says in the draft environmental impact report that they think this plan is acceptable because the citizens of California have cut their carbon footprint since 2006, working hard to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gas in our communities.

To give an idea of how much CO2 Rise Gold would create, 10,000 metric tons would be roughly equivalent to the emissions created by building 450 [1] new homes in Grass Valley. But it’s an imperfect comparison because many of the people buying those houses already live in California. Their carbon emissions already exist.

Rise Gold proposes to create completely new carbon emissions on land that currently produces zero carbon emissions. It would be as if 450 alien households from outer space landed on the property and began polluting.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby estimates that the true cost of carbon in the United States is around $80 a ton. This figure includes all the costs we citizens currently pay to emit carbon per our standard of living. Carbon offsets on the market currently range in cost from between $10 and $30 a ton. These offsets are what Rise Gold would purchase.

In other words, we pay $80 a ton and Rise Gold would pay as little as $10 ton to pollute our atmosphere. Therefore, we would subsidize Rise Gold for as much as $70 a ton. They would take gold from our community and enrich themselves in exchange for creating 350 jobs and polluting our air.

As we attempt to reconfigure our society to address climate change, we would subsidize Rise Gold so they could make climate change and global warming worse.

The draft environmental impact report says reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mind itself would not cause climate change, and that is true. But if communities across the state and nation approve projects like Rise Gold’s proposal, there is no way we could be effective in addressing climate change. That impact is called the “cumulative impact.”

Our lives and property are threatened by climate change: wildfires, drought, sea level rise, more powerful storm events, etc.

Rise Gold says to us: We can’t see you. We can’t hear you. We want that gold. But their mine proposal would undermine our climate change work.

We citizens would have to work much harder to reduce the horrible impacts of a warming world if projects like reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mind are allowed to go ahead as proposed.

As lead agency, Nevada County must hold Rise Gold to a higher standard. To do otherwise is just irresponsible. The deadline for comments on the draft environmental impact report is April 4. Please submit a comment.

David J. Whitehead lives in Grass Valley.


  1. Per CEA Foundation, the estimate of 450 homes above would be raised to 690 homes if taking into account the EPA's more current determination that 25,000 metric tons are equivalent to approximately 2,300 homes. According to this calculation, the annual emissions described in the DEIR for the Idaho-Maryland Mine Draft Environmental Report of 8.982.87 equates to about 690 homes. In a similar calculation, this level of emissions would be equivalent to 1,656 new vehicles.


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