For Immediate Release: December 16, 2022
Community Environmental Advocates Foundation
CEA Foundation Urges Caution Interpreting Mine’s Economic Impact Report
Grass Valley, CA – December 16, 2022 – CEA Foundation recently sent comments to Nevada County’s Board of Supervisors about the recently released Economic Impact Report for the proposed reopening of Idaho-Maryland Mine.
RISE Gold Corp., a company headquartered in Canada, is applying for permits to reopen the long-shuttered gold mine. The mine sits directly beneath what is now an upscale rural residential community.
The report was commissioned by Nevada County and authored by consultant Robert D Niehaus, Inc. (RDN). It evaluates employment, tax revenue, real estate impact, and more. It will be used together with a soon-to-be released update of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to help the County’s five supervisors make a decision about the project.
“We are grateful to the County for commissioning an independent economic report, rather than relying solely on the private report produced by Rise Gold”, said Ralph Silberstein, President of CEA Foundation. “It corrected some of Rise Gold’s most outrageous claims. And yet it shares a similar problem with the Draft EIR released earlier this year, relying heavily on information provided by the applicant.” CEA Foundation, community reviewers, and state agencies deemed the draft inadequate and called for its recirculation, raising concerns about relying upon a document that was riddled with errors and omissions.
The report’s tax revenue analysis shows a huge range from high to low. It hinges on estimates of “gold reserves'' that would be used to determine property tax assessments for Rise Gold’s underground mineral rights. These reserves, however, are not “proven” and can’t be certified until more exploration is done. The revenue figures represent a half to two percent (.04% to 2.1%) of the County’s general fund revenue. In the low-end scenario, the mine would close after eleven years.
RDN downgraded Rise Gold’s local spending projections, adjusting initial claims of generating over $12M a year to just under $5M. Similarly, assertions about generating 300 “indirect” jobs turned into 163 instead.
Project assumptions of the report are a key point of concern. The study assumes the mine would operate as proposed by the applicant and relied upon environmental impact information provided in the Draft EIR. Mine production levels and construction costs/timeline were provided by Rise Gold. At the same time, estimated costs of major expenses needed for an accurate analysis like facility construction, dewatering, and rehabilitation of the old mine works were not made available by Rise Gold.
CEA’s comments raise questions about projections for direct and construction jobs. Estimates about how many Rise Gold employees would be hired locally are not well supported by other information sources about the mining industry and the transient nature of mine employees. Calculations related to 12 hours work shifts and one week on/ one week off schedules for over 50% of the employment base were challenged. Industry norms and previous EIRs on this mine say that most of these workers will live outside the county or reside in shared rental housing. They’re also unlikely to spend the majority of their take-home pay in the County. Similarly, mine construction requires highly specialized experience that may not be available using local companies.
“RDN’s assertion that they found ‘no conclusive evidence’ the project would lower property values is a gut-punch for people living close to the mine,” said Charlie Brock, Nevada County Realtor for 54 years. “The report disregards the overwhelming opposition of local real estate experts who believe the mine will have considerable negative effects. It also reveals RDNs lack of expertise on the subject by creating a custom analysis of three mines that bear almost zero resemblance to our community or situation.”
One mine in RDN’s report is situated across the street from a correctional institution. Two mines have no dwellings within 1/2 mile, compared to over 2000 dwellings near the Idaho-Maryland Mine mineral rights area. According to the Draft EIR for the latter, nearby homes would be subject to noise, vibration, dust, truck traffic, and aesthetic impacts – along with the creation of two large tailings piles for at least 11 years. For over 300 well owners in the area, concerns about the risk of dewatering or damaging wells that provide their only source of water are very high. There are also questions about RDNs analysis methods. For example, calculations minimized the impact on home value by expanding the range of properties evaluated – from right next to the mine to as far as 10 miles away.
The community is also concerned that the limited scope of the report prevented analysis of several other impacts and costs. These include impacts on tourism, the hi-tech industry, and overall workforce availability. “Today’s well-balanced economy is built around tourism, recreation, and retirees”, said retired capital planner, Paul Schwartz. “Reintroducing a large-scale industrial mining operation to our area comes with significant risks”.
Nevada County’s Board of Supervisors commissioned this report to get a reliable independent analysis of the economic impact of the proposed mine on the local economy. Community members say the report is far less than definitive. “While the report has given us some useful data, supervisors may want to take it with a huge grain of salt,” said Silberstein. “In the end, the Supervisors will be left with a single overriding question. Is this report credible enough to use as a justification to dismiss the lengthy list of environmental and financial risks?”
View CEA Foundation’s comments and questions on the County’s Economic Impact Report here.
Hear community perspectives from CEA Foundation and MineWatch coalition members by attending a webinar on Tuesday, December 20 at 6pm. Register here.
For more information about the potential re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine visit: www.MineWatchNC.org
About CEA Foundation: Community Environmental Advocates Foundation (CEA Foundation) performs research, education, and advocacy to promote responsible land use and environmental protection policies in Nevada County. www.cea-nc.org. CEA Foundation is the sponsor of MineWatch, a campaign that brings together a coalition of nonprofit organizations, residents, and businesses opposed to the mine.www.MineWatchNC.org