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John Vaughan: Rise Gold’s corporate culture — Lawyers, lawyers and more lawyers

It appears that an element of Rise’s Corporate Culture is a willingness to use threats of legal action to get their way.

This opinion piece was first published in The Union.


July 13, 2023

Last month, I wrote about the corporate temper tantrum Rise displayed after the unanimous Planning Commission vote against their proposed project (“Comments on a corporate tantrum at Rise Gold”, The Union Ideas & Opinions, 06/10).

It appears that another element of Rise’s Corporate Culture is a willingness to use threats of legal action to get their way. A few examples include:

After receipt of some negative comments in response to the Draft EIR from the Air Quality Board, Rise’s Attorney sent a long letter to the Air Quality Board claiming a number of grievances, including bias, influence by project opponents, defamation, violation of Constitutional Rights, challenges to the science and claims that Rise’s business interests had been harmed. The lawyers letter concludes with threats of lawsuits and demands a retraction. The Air Quality Board apparently bent to their demands.

If Rise’s grievances with the Air Quality Board sound familiar, that’s because it’s basically the same elements included in the Rise June 1st letter sent to the Board of Supervisors following the Planning Commission’s unanimous vote against their proposed project. Grievance after grievance because the Planning Commission did their job, and the outcome was not what Rise wanted.

Following their June 1st letter to the Supervisors, Rise has submitted Public Record Act Requests (PRAs) affecting dozens and dozens of people at several Agencies, including Nevada County and Nevada Irrigation District. Each of these requests does the typical lawyer thing, demanding “any and all” documentation about anything that’s ever happened regarding the Rise project in over 30 different categories. Responding to PRA’s requires volumes of paper and likely requires hundreds of hours of staff time to collect data and provide a response. This effort seems to be aimed at finding “evidence” that proves a conspiracy, when the facts are that what happened before and during the Planning Commission Hearing is a great example of democracy in action.

Of course, Rise has a right to the information, but what we are seeing may well be a key part of the Rise Corporate Culture. If the Board of Supervisors approves this project, it’s unlikely the legal actions will end.

Rise wants us to believe that no environmental issues of any kind will happen at any time for any reason for 80 years. But just for fun, let’s hypothetically suppose that some water quality reports are late or show toxins leaking into Wolf Creek, or maybe the waste rock asbestos content is higher than acceptable limits, or wells start going dry. Any of those scenarios and dozens of others require enforcement actions by the County or an outside Agency. These legitimate Agency demands for compliance will likely be met by Rise’s Attorney with obfuscation, delays, more long letters claiming County Staff or Agency bias, defamation, violation of Constitutional Rights, challenges to the science and threats of lawsuits. Good luck with getting any non-compliance enforced.

In addition, close examination of the wording in the FEIR and the enforceability of the mitigations and conditions of approval will reveal they are riddled with ambiguity. Such ambiguities in the FEIR feed a corporate strategy which appears to be designed to ensure that no one but Rise will decide whether or not they are in compliance, whether or not anything has to be done about it, and when it will be done.

All the mitigations, compliance promises, and plans noted in the FEIR and Development Agreement are likely just smoke and mirrors as the apparent plan is to use the Rise lawyers to do whatever they want.

One might think that the Rise Board and especially the Rise CEO had learned from the negative outcomes (for the community, the employees, the environment, and the CEO) at the Banks Island mine in Canada. But Corporate Culture is often a reflection of leadership and is very difficult and unlikely to change.

You can’t fix a bad idea with threats and empty promises. Please encourage your County Supervisor to “Just Say No” to all parts of the Rise project.

You can find your Supervisors contact information and detailed analysis of why the Rise project is wrong for Nevada County at

John Vaughan, Grass Valley


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