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Jim Steinmann: Mine jobs – Harsh, few, and not for locals

Rise Gold is touting jobs, jobs, jobs. But reality is not all it's cracked up to be. All this hoopla for 132 local jobs? 12 hour shifts? 7 days on / 7 off? We can do better.


The opinion piece was originally published in The Union.

 

The Idaho Maryland Mine Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and project is coming to a vote by the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors soon. As expected, Rise Gold management is putting on a last-minute publicity blast touting jobs, jobs, jobs – even though most hiring may not begin for 6-10 years if the project is approved.


CEA Foundation-MineWatch is the group leading up the 21-organization strong opposition to the Idaho Maryland Mine (IMM). As a local resident and decades-long owner of a planning and management firm for large scale development projects including mining, I volunteered with other MineWatch panelists to analyze the economic impacts and jobs expected from the Mine. You can see my presentation at youtube.com/watch?v=sffBFTY78Pw.


Doing the analysis helped me understand how weak the jobs outlook from the mine is.


Here is what I found:


How many jobs are we really talking about?


Rise Gold originally claimed they would bring 600 new local jobs to the county. The county’s Economic Impact Report corrected that number to 475.


This would include 312 direct jobs when the mine is fully operational, plus 163 indirect jobs hired by other companies, some part time. Of these jobs, my analysis concluded that the Mine will likely result in less than 132 locally held jobs for residents of Nevada County 6-10 years from now. Given the complexity of the permitting and building process, it could easily be 2034 before the mine is financed and operational with a complete workforce.


Will these jobs go to locals?


There is no guarantee that jobs will go to Nevada County residents.


Correcting the boilerplate assumptions used in the county’s Economic Impact Report, I estimate that 58% (not 32%) of Rise Gold’s workforce would be commuters from outside the county. This is because 12 hour shifts with 7 day on/7 day off work schedules favor skilled, but transient miners who commute – often sharing housing or living in an RV. They live in their hometowns and change mine jobs as they develop. Clearly, these transient workers will not spend much of their income in the county.


Even the construction jobs for building the facilities are likely to go to outsiders since most of the construction requires contractors with highly specialized experience.


Do you want your kids to work in an underground mine?


The bottom line is that mining is a miserable job that is physically and environmentally dangerous. We are talking about 12-hour shifts, 7 days on/7 off, 2,300 feet or more underground with heavy equipment – while wearing full protective gear.


Mine jobs are not secure


Mining is a boom-or-bust business. Risks include a rise in operating costs, a drop in gold prices or ore quantity, an environmental accident, bankruptcy, sudden closing, and wells drying out. Any of these events could result in a sudden loss of jobs.


The result: an economic and environmental wipeout instead of the touted jobs windfall.


Existing zoning provides for more and better jobs


For years, Grass Valley and Nevada County decision makers have responsibly planned for their economic future. The goal is to grow clean businesses, not resource extraction jobs. Approving the mine would require a zone change that would put mineral extraction immediately adjacent to residential areas, but Grass Valley’s current General Plan and zoning provide for a clean Business Park that could accommodate up to 800 jobs according to a report for the last IMM proposal. This is almost twice as many jobs as the mine might provide, without the risk.


Let’s stick with the City and County General Plans – which provides more and better jobs for locals.


The minimal economic and job benefits do not outweigh the risks


I made a simple calculation of the most optimistic scenarios in the County’s Economic Impact Report to reveal that the real economic benefits of the mine will be an inconsequential $7/per year/per County resident.


I ask our County Supervisors: does $7/year/resident and only 132 future jobs for current residents override the serious risks of placing a toxic, hazardous and economically questionable business in the middle of an idyllic residential community? My conclusion is no.


If you agree, write a letter to your supervisor at www.MineWatchNC.org/send-a-letter. I will be attending the upcoming Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors hearings asking them to Just Say No to the Idaho Maryland Mine and EIR.


Jim Steinmann

Grass Valley

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