Local nonprofit, Earth Justice Ministries, brings a spiritual and moral perspective to aesthetics, cumulative impacts, and the need to repair previous harm done.
This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.
Our organization, Earth Justice Ministries, is a local nonprofit that brings a spiritual and moral perspective to bear on issues of our day. We echo the concerns of everyone who is speaking out against the harmful effects that would come from reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mine. Our organization signed on to the coalition statement critiquing the draft environmental impact report submitted for the mine. We fully support that statement.
Our statement focused on what is listed in the report as “aesthetics,” the mine’s cumulative impacts, and the need to repair harm done.
Aesthetics are downplayed as a concern in the report, but beauty is a value, as in “the beauty way” of the Navajo people. A beauty that touches the hearts and minds of people. It is that natural beauty of Nevada County that brought so many of us here, and that brings so many visitors — the sights, the sounds, the smells of this place — the taste and feel of clean water, the fish in the streams, the wildlife.
People come here to experience the beauty, to experience a deeper reality that puts things in perspective. To many, the natural beauty here is like church, reconnecting us to what is most meaningful in life. The final environmental impact report must adequately list in detail the mine’s specific aesthetic impacts.
The aesthetic value of this region may be classified as quality of life, especially in the vicinity of the mine. There would be more truck traffic, higher noise levels, and possibly vibration from blasting. The natural landscape would be buried beneath mine waste and paved industrial areas. The final report should honestly report that such aesthetic damage cannot be quantified or mitigated.
As an organization concerned about environmental harm, we support the Nevada County Energy Action Plan, which calls for gradually reducing annual residential electric use by 12% in accordance with California state goals. Rise Gold’s projected electrical use would cancel out this goal and add significant carbon to the atmosphere.
The California Air Resources Board 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan states: “Achieving no net additional increase in greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in no contribution to greenhouse gas impacts, is an appropriate overall objective for new development.”
This should be our goal. The final environmental impact report must establish a net zero threshold for new greenhouse gas emissions from the project and declare that it has significant and unavoidable impacts.
Mitigations cannot overcome the mine’s cumulative impacts. Those impacts would work together to decrease our quality of life by risking increased air and water pollution, dewatering wells, harming Wolf Creek, higher greenhouse gas emissions, injuring plants and animals, raising noise levels, damaging roads, and yes, wounding the beauty of this place.
Even if Rise Gold’s proposed mitigations were implemented, monitored, and enforced for 80 years, such mitigation would only lesson harmful impacts, not eliminate them. The mine’s inevitably harmful impacts to our community are not acceptable at any level. Cumulative harm should be listed in the final environmental impact report as significant and unavoidable.
There is still much damage to repair from the Gold Rush, including genocide committed against the Nisenan people and other nearby tribes. The earth and people were so damaged that the toxic legacy continues today.
Healing from the past includes respecting the earth that gives us life, making reparations for harm done, restoring the land and air, and changing our ways so that we are in a right and good relationship with this place, its people and creatures.
We cannot heal from the past if we continue adding to the harms by opening this mine.
Guarionex Delgado, Brian Fry, Dianna Suarez, Sharon Delgado, Jonah Platt, Becky Gillespie, Michelle Montgomery and Josie Crawford sit on the board of Earth Justice Ministries.