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Jim Bair: Opportunity to head off a major threat to our County

"What is the worst thing that could happen to us in Western Nevada County? One threat that has been completely consuming over the past two years is the proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine (IMM)." Jim Bair is a Stop the Mine Task Force Leader.

This opinion piece was also published in The Union.


April 28, 2023

What is the worst thing that could happen to us in Western Nevada County? I bet we all have answers to that question. But there’s a more likely threat than wildfires or additional atmospheric rivers. As a 22- year resident of Nevada County, having been a Planning Commissioner (Grass Valley), volunteered for several non-profits, and run two businesses, one threat has been completely consuming over the past two years: the proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine (IMM). There are hundreds of excellent publications in The Union and online at explaining why it’s a very bad idea.

Proposed by Rise Gold Corp. of Nevada State and Canada (RISE), the project has generated over 10,000 pages including a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). As a former scientist, I dove into the “science” in the report. The most dangerous impact I found is asbestos air pollution, one of a whopping 86 NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS. Based on dozens of reports, I have concluded that asbestos air pollution cannot be “mitigated.” The FEIR’s claims that asbestos can be made safe are dependent upon government agencies that do not agree it’s possible to measure airborne asbestos, let alone mitigate it. Literally everyone agrees that airborne asbestos can cause cancer and death. So how do we stop 55,845 pounds of airborne toxins including asbestos from being released into our air every year for 80 years?

We must support our deciders, the County Supervisors and Planning Commissioners in rejecting the threat. Knowing our Supervisors for many years, I feel that they are committed to doing the best for us. They depend on County planners to provide them and our Commissioners with analysis and RECOMMENDATIONS for approval. In addition, several hundred of us have delivered the results of our investigations in meetings and written comments. So have numerous organizations such as NID, the City of Grass Valley, the Northern Sierra Air Quality Resources District, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, and legal firms.

BUT Rise Gold Corp. has sophisticated consultants and lawyers. It’s a battle of the Titans, if you include all of us. But as the two sides face off, we volunteers are challenged, not only by the money that RISE has received from high-risk investors and the stock market, but by how the approval process works. We volunteer our time and rely on donations to get legal advice, while the County process is to serve applicants for project approval giving them ongoing access to the Planning Dept. We submit thousands of “comments” which are delivered to the County and, although most are copied in the FEIR, many are relegated to “master responses” in the FEIR (starting p. 74).

A project of this magnitude must also fit in with a huge number of other action items managed by the County government. I know that reviewing the thousands pages of the FEIR and related documents is onerous because I have. In addition, the County must deal with the project’s consultants and lawyers whose business is to promote developments. These “expert” consultants are highly skilled at making projects pass the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and dismissing 100s of public analyses of the negative environmental impacts (see FEIR Chapter 2 – Responses to Comments Page 2-1.)

I know that Planning Commissioners are looking for our comments while diligently reviewing both RISE and public input which we can still provide:

ATTEND THE PLANNING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING, MAY 10, AT OUR ROOD CENTER, 9 TO 5. I expect that RISE’s arguments will be presented by the Planning Department and RISE consultants with numerous slides and “science”. We, including agency representatives, get THREE MINUTES each to speak and NO slides. I’ve submitted over 40 technical pages, but we can all rise to the time limit challenge. We also can deliver our written comments of any length at the hearing. (Note: I have received clear advice from Commissioners to make our comments specific to the FEIR.)

But believe it or not, JUST BEING THERE COUNTS ALMOST LIKE A VOTE! Sorry about those who work all day, but with hundreds of businesses taking a stand against the Mine, you could be able to get some time off. Attend and help stop this greed grab from destroying our environment and our health.

Jim Bair, Grass Valley


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