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Learn a lot in 15 minutes

Get smart in a hurry. Hear from three experts about the risks posed by the proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine in this educational video sponsored by the Sierra Club and produced by Nevada County Media.

Host Cassandra Wahlstrom is joined by Ralph Silberstein – President, CEA Foundation, Barbara Rivenes – Local Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Maryanne Murphy – Local lawyer to discuss the impacts of the potential re-opening of the Idaho Maryland Mine in Grass Valley, CA. Full transcript below.

This presentation starts at 2:30. Rewind to watch the introduction too.


This is program presented by the Sierra Club of the Gold Country.


The issue that we're going to be discussing today is the proposed reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine located in Grass Valley. My name is Cassandra Wahlstrom, a longtime member of the Sierra Club and for the last few years a participating member of the local Sierra Club management committee I'm an art historian with three informed guests we will discuss the key issues regarding the mine.

As far as our local environment is concerned, destruction of woodlands, massive mine waste dumping groundwater, pollution, air pollution emissions, and energy use of extreme quantity, noise and vibrations, traffic, real estate impacts to property values, issues of quality of life and beauty of the environment.

For the people that actually live here with the three informed guests today: Ralph Silberstein president of the Board of Directors of CEA Foundation Community Environmental Advocates Foundation Barbara Rivenes an environmentalist for many years chairperson of the management committee of our local chapter of the national Sierra Club and Maryanne Murphy owner of Murphy law firm of Grass Valley she's a California lawyer since 1986 and a real estate broker very much familiar with the local property values

I'd like to welcome Ralph to give us some information that he is very much familiar with because of his Community Environmental Advocates Foundation so please step forward here and let us know some of the interesting and essential details of this situation


Thank you Cassandra and the Sierra Club for inviting us. As Cassandra indicated this is a huge project with impacts to air, water, traffic, safety, local habitat, and quality of life. I'll just touch on a few key issues there are two sites for this project the Centennial site and the Brunswick site. The Centennial site is along Idaho Maryland road and Centennial Drive. It's historically the site of the Idaho-Maryland Mine. The site will be almost entirely used for mine waste... mined waste dumping for about five years. The Brunswick site is on Brunswick Road and East Bennett Drive. It's 119 acres and there Rise Gold plans to build 122,000 square feet of storage buildings, including a 16 story tall head frame structure, a 425 foot long six-story tall mineral processing building, conveyor system storage tank, and several other industrial buildings. The Brunswick site will also be used for mine waste dumping for about six years covering about 31 acres to a height of nine stories above grade. These industrial buildings and the mine waste piles will be right along Brunswick Road. If approved we will all be impacted by this project.

But any of the 1800 property owners over or near that two thousand five hundred and eighty-five acres of mineral rights should be especially concerned. Mineral rights generally extend within 200 feet of the surface so there's a nice map that shows where this is. From completely under the hospital on the west side, to under the airport on the east side ,and it begins from the edge of the Glenbrook Basin on the north, all the way down to highway 174 and under the Cedar Ridge neighborhoods. The mineral rights run continuously so within this area, blasting shockwaves may be felt. The blasting analysis for this project uses the standard of four-tenths of an inch per second motion as an acceptable standard because only eight percent of the people complain.

If you're one of the several hundred well owners in this region your well may be impacted. Rise Gold's own hydrological study shows that dewatering the mine will lower the ground water levels by more than five feet over a fairly large area. There's a nice diagram to help explain this, but basically the study is based on a lot of assumptions. It assumes that the rock strata is uniform throughout the area. And it assumes there they won't encounter any unidentified fractures or faults or tunnels that might invalidate the model. And also assumes that the mining will be limited to a small area of the mineral rights accounting for only a third of the planned 80 years of operations. These are big assumptions. We need hard facts before putting hundreds of wells at risk.

Other concerns are noise and traffic, trucks hauling cement, explosives, chemicals and materials. Heavy equipment dumping, grading, and compacting seven days a week. And up to 100 trips per day of gravel trucks running 16 hours a day seven days a week. They'll start out motoring up Brunswick Road and turning left on Whispering Pines Lane and going through the Whispering Pines Business Park to drop the mine waste on the Centennial Site. Later on they'll be driving up Brunswick Road and going through Glenbrook Basin to get on highway 49. There'll be lots of noise lots of traffic. And there'll be constant noise from the rock crushing and mineral processing facility, which will run 24x7, 365 days a year. Note that the application documents claim that the noise will meet County codes, but they said that for the exploratory drilling that drove the neighbors crazy for about two years.

I've just covered a few of the issues but in closing I just have to ask a question. Does it really make sense to build a huge industrial gold mine operating in the middle of our beautiful rural neighborhoods? Constructing huge mine waste piles and causing air pollution, noise, traffic, loss of groundwater, greenhouse gas emissions, and so on. All this extract little bits of yellow rock to profit a Canadian-based company. You decide.


Thank you. Our next guest is an environmentalist, Barbara Rivenes… for many years chairperson of the management committee of our local chapter of the national Sierra Club.


I'm pleased you're joining us this afternoon or today. My involvement began when I heard that another Canadian junior mining company was coming to Grass Valley to despoil our community with dreams of gold again. This time for 80 years. I couldn't believe it.

Their plan includes underground mining less than two miles from downtown Grass Valley. Exploring all the old shafts under people's houses, rumbling around, looking for specks of gold in tons of rock. But it did turn out to be true and the environmental impacts are many and varied.

Completely erasing 75 acres of woodland at the Brunswick Site. Destroying rich animal habitat. They're depleting groundwater. Treating South Fork Wolf Creek like a storm drain. Increasing energy use. And reversing our county's climate change progress. There are two proposed active sites as Ralph said. Brunswick where the tall shaft sits at the corner of Brunswick and east Bennett, which is now populated with 50 acres of mixed conifer and hardwood species. Home to a variety of mammals and birds. Of course the area is completely surrounded by residential rural properties which reflects today's county zoning.

The centennial site is smaller. It was heavily impacted in the previous mining years and requires state remediation before any work can be done. Rhis site will eventually be covered with waste rock and tailings up to 70 feet high at 70 feet high over 44 acres that is the height of a seven story building. Phew.

Dewatering the mine will bring the other impacts. 800 million gallons of water will be pumped out of the mine and dumped into South Fork Wolf Creek in the first six months. Further dewatering continues removing over a million gallons a day over the 80 years of its production. Imagine the turbulence and the damage to the riparian areas along the creek. No longer a meander but a full rushing onslaught of water. Please note that the homes in this area of East Bennett and Brunswick all have private wells and no guarantee how these will be impacted.

Also other reaches of the mineral rights zone may have impacts when the water is pumped out. About 1800 properties as you can see. There will be dramatic changes in the areas. Terrestrial flora and fauna. And our precious creeks. But we will also experience a slap in the face for our climate change actions. In the last few years both the county and the city have created ambitious energy action plans to reduce our energy footprint through efficiency and solar installations. The estimated energy use of the mine is 42 million kilowatt hours which will wipe out whatever energy savings we had calculated to save. Equal to about five thousand homes. And the estimated greenhouse emissions for the mine is nine thousand metric tons per year.

Then there's the air pollution. Fugitive dust from the rock crushing, loading, hauling, packing, combining into engineered fill would create microscopic particles harmful to the lungs in the Grass Valley neighborhood that is home to Sierra Nevada memorial hospital, all the doctor’s offices in the area, the rest homes, and the apartments along that way. Nevada County is already considered by the state a non-attainment area for ozone an industrial venture of this magnitude will not be compatible with an idyllic small mountain town and its inhabitants.


Thank you. Our next guest will be Maryanne Murphy. She's owner of the Murphy law firm in Grass Valley and she also a real estate broker very knowledgeable about local properties in the area Maryanne


Thank you. I will provide some general information about the processes involved in determining whether or not this project as filed will become a mining project of our community. You should first know that the deciders of whether or not that happens lies exclusively within the power of the board of supervisors from Nevada County. There are some ancillary public agencies that will be consulted or can voice their concerns agencies such as the city of the Grass Valley in Nevada City and NID, but the decision is the board of supervisors’ decision. And it would only take a majority vote of five of three of the five to approve this plan or this project. And it would become a member of our community at that point.

There are a couple of legal issues surrounding the project. One is environmental. And the other one is land use.

I say land use because the land where the operational sites and the residential sites have different zoning. One is ultra-hazardous and the other is residential. Some commercial sites if you consider the mineral rights expansion of this project. And their activity is not consistent with that zoning requirement. So, they would have to get approved by the board of supervisors a conditional use proof permit to work around that zoning -- to get an exception to that zoning. That process is in the hands of the planning department. They will be holding committee meetings and a hearing to eventually advise the board about the recommendation as to going around the zoning and giving out a conditional use permit.

The second of course is the environmental which follows the state law called California Environment Quality Protection Act CEQA of 1970 that basically provides for the legal agencies such as the board to review the environmental impacts in a certain pattern or a step process. In this instance with public comment. By the way, in this instance, they're already at step three which is the final segment of the three-step process and have the board has issued a request for an environmental impact report. This is the final phase. What that report is made up of is specialist comments on some of the issues raised by Barbara and Ralph.

They are to detail information about a project's likely effect on the environment. Consider ways to mitigate any significant adverse environmental effects. And, examine alternatives that will avoid or reduce the impact to the community. That information is made public. Some of it is put on the county's website. Eventually there will be a final Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). At that point, there will be public comment.

There's public comment ongoing during this process and so I would encourage you (since there's no other people to who will be deciding this but the board) for you to become active. - if you care about the outcome of this - with the board by lobbying your individual board members. Or, showing up at an agenda and speaking your peace of mind on some of these environmental or land use issues. Or, joining an organization to fight like such as Ralph's to find out more information. But to do it in that way because you cannot do it in any other way at this point. Thank you.


Thank you Maryanne. he Idaho-Maryland Mine is an important issue. At this time the proposed reopening of industrial mining operations in a cultural residential community is a disaster that can be prevented. Consider the information shared in this program. You can make an important difference by contacting your representative on the board of supervisors.

You can…at the end of this program... find a link to the information. How to find that website. Or, you can simply go onto the internet and locate it for yourself very easily. When you find your representative it's a good thing to contact him at least once and perhaps a couple of times over the next period while the things are developing. And before the vote (if you keep yourself informed, you'll know when the vote is).

You really can make a difference by contacting your representative. Thank you so much for your interest care and concern about the quality of life in the environment you


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