Ken Bernstein: Look to the past to predict mine’s future if allowed
Reviewing Rise Gold CEO's past decisions, Ken concludes that "he is extremely unlikely to be a good steward of the operating permit for the Idaho-Maryland Mine, nor will he protect the essence of what makes Nevada County a paradise."
This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.
The Idaho-Maryland Mine project is generating more controversy than any other local topic. Discussions of pros, cons and what might happen are becoming louder and more emotional.
I am not interested in speculation. I believe the most accurate predictor of a person’s future decisions are those made in the past. Instead of joining the noise and confusion of these discussions, I wanted to get to know Ben Mossman, CEO of Rise Gold, what decisions he made in Canada, and what could happen in Grass Valley.
Before Mr. Mossman came here, he was president, CEO, CFO and director of Banks Island Gold, which operated in Banks Island, Canada. This is a timeline of that project:
March 2014: Banks Island Gold receives approval from the Canadian government to run a small underground mine. Banks Island Gold publishes on their website that the mine will produce 75,000 metric tonnes of ore annually. In Canada, this amount triggers a full environmental assessment. When Banks Island Gold files its mining application, it only shows 73,000 tonnes/year, just beneath the environmental assessment threshold, avoiding a full environmental study. This practice is known as “project splitting,” breaking a project down into smaller chunks to intentionally avoid a rigorous review. Mossman takes advantage of this loophole, setting up his mine to operate with minimal environmental assessment and oversight.
January 2015: Banks Island Gold begins commercial production of the Yellow Giant Mine.
June 25, 2015: The Canadian Ministry of Environment, after receiving information from a whistleblower, conducts an on-site inspection. This inspection allegedly uncovers effluent discharges of contaminated water and silt into the local waterways, plus a number of alleged permit violations.
July 15, 2015: The Canadian Energy and Mines Ministry orders the entire Banks Island Gold operation to immediately shut down because of the effluent leak and alleged permit violations.
July 24, 2015: Banks Island Gold issues a press release acknowledging the July 15 shutdown order.
July 28, 2015: Banks Island Gold issues a press release saying they are continuing to process ore, in violation of the Canadian shutdown order.
Aug 4, 2015: Banks Island Gold issues a press release stating that as of July 31, the operation had shut down.
January 2016: Banks Island Gold files for bankruptcy. Mr. Mossman walks away from the site, abandoning it. Consequently, the Canadian government is now responsible for toxic cleanup costing more than the cleanup bond.
That is the story of Banks Island Gold. Shut down by the Canadian government after only seven months in operation. One year from start to bankruptcy. Mr. Mossman left behind a toxic legacy the Canadian government and indigenous Gitxaała Nation must clean up. As of 2021, the site was still considered by BC Mining Law Reform as one of British Columbia’s “Dirty Dozen” top polluters.
In a nutshell, I see that Ben Mossman opened a gold mine, manipulated permit requirements, made a mess of the environment, declared bankruptcy, shorted his employees, left town, and then moved to Grass Valley. To open another mine. To do it all again. History always seems to repeat itself.
Bottom line: Mr. Mossman’s past patterns of behavior demonstrate to me that he is extremely unlikely to be a good steward of the operating permit for the Idaho-Maryland Mine, nor will he protect the essence of what makes Nevada County a paradise. I respectfully ask the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to consider this when it comes time for them to vote on the future of Nevada County.
Ken Bernstein lives in Nevada City.