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Katharine Popenuk: Nothing settled about mine

This local resident takes serious issue with a mailer Rise Gold recently sent to the community with the headline "The Science is Clear", trying to make people believe that the DRAFT environmental impact report is the final word and that the County has all-but made a decision.

You can also read this in The Union. The version below is a more current version, which includes a few corrections.


Science is clear but Rise Gold’s most recent mailing is anything but. Rather, it is an intentionally misleading attempt to skew the facts regarding the mine reopening.

Has the mine reopening been approved?

No, Nevada County has NOT just completed anything regarding approval of the mine reopening. The county Board of Supervisors has yet to conduct its first meeting to discuss the contents of the draft environmental study. They have not yet fully considered nor approved the contents of the study. No final determination has been made as to the accuracy of the scientific analysis, anticipated impacts, or adequacy of the proposed regulation of a reopened mine.

The DEIR (DRAFT Environmental Impact Report) has not laid to rest anything. Rather, the report enumerates 83 impacts, 32 of which are considered significant enough that they will require some measure of intervention so as to make them not as bad as they actually are anticipated to be.

Some impacts are so severe, there is nothing that can be done, we will just have to live with them. We are being asked to accept a lower quality of life in Grass Valley.

None of these concerns have been “put to rest”. There remains grave concerns about drained wells, spoiled aquifers, polluted water ways, destroyed habitats, dust, exhaust, noise, and airborne chemicals associated with the transportation of waste and by gold extraction. There is no confirmation that there will not be spills, seepage, accidents, oversight, or callous disregard of regulations or safety practices.

What is the DEIR?

The DEIR’s only purpose is to lay out the ways in which the reopened mine will impact our environment and the possible ways some of these impacts could be dealt with.

This report was compiled for and paid for by Rise Gold. It is important to note that this report was limited by and relied exclusively on information provided to the consulting firm by Rise Gold, and many of the conclusions reached in the report are based on assumptions and best case scenarios. The report does not guarantee in any way what will be the actual outcome.

The fact remains, the mining industry is the single largest source of toxic waste and one of the most destructive industries in the country. Today's industrial mining involves the blasting, deep excavating, and crushing of acres of land and the use of huge quantities of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and sulfuric acid.

But what about the new jobs?

Rise Gold states we can expect 612 new jobs, 312 of which are directly related to the mine operation. The other 300 are presumed to be increases in our current employment base, in response to the estimated 50 million new dollars being poured into our community.

Two thirds of the 312 mine employees are to be current local residents. The remaining 104 employees, would be the top paid technical and managerial positions. Are any of these highly trained specialized employees already a part of our local community? Or will these positions more likely be outsourced? Will adding 104 new Grass Valley residents really induce a new local spending increase of $50M each year?

Do mine workers really earn $122,000 a year?

When Rise Gold says “average”, they are including all salaries, including the top 1/3 salaried positions in the calculation of that average. This includes the CEO’s anticipated very generous salary. Furthermore, Rise Gold’s estimated worker earnings includes company-paid benefit costs that the employee never sees in their paycheck.

The reality is an entry-level Miner can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes bonus and overtime pay) of $18.55/hour, based on a survey of typical existing salaries. An early career Miner earns $20.26, and an experienced Miner with 10-19 years of experience earns $27.56. (source: Truck drivers, janitors, front load operators, security staff, etc. will all be making the current going rate, with or without a mine.

Do we get to keep the gold? No, we don’t. All of the gold and all of the profits will be leaving Grass Valley. The city of Grass Valley and Nevada County will not be receiving a piece of the gold pie. Any profits will go to the owners and shareholders of Rise Gold.

So what’s in it for us?

That is a very good question. Grass Valley assumes all of the risks, and for what? It’s a case of trading the family cow for a handful of magic beans. We would be risking so much for so very little; throwing away our beautiful quiet community, our neighbors, our scenery, our streams and rivers, our air quality, our water quality and habitat, our well paved traffic free streets, our peace and quiet, and our tax dollars for mitigation and reparation—24/7 for the next 80 years; for what?

Please let the Board of Supervisors know what you want for your community. email:

Katharine Popenuk lives in Grass Valley.


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