Almost 500 people attended the County's meeting. Of the 101 who picked up tickets to comment, only 1 spoke in favor of the mine.
For Immediate Release:
Mar 24, 2022
Community Environmental Advocates Foundation
Nevada County Commissioners hear from the public regarding proposed Idaho-Maryland Mine
Grass Valley, CA– Residents of Nevada County filled the Board Chambers in the Rood Center today, to give public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Idaho-Maryland Mine. The five members of the Nevada County Planning Commission received information on the adequacy of the legally-required environmental report. The DEIR is required for large-scale projects with significant environmental impacts as part of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The special meeting was the first in-person public hearing on the controversial issue.
RISE Gold Corp., a company headquartered in Canada, has proposed re-opening the mine in Grass Valley -- an urbanized gold-rush era mining town. The long-shuttered mine sits just outside of the downtown, and an extensive residential neighborhood has developed around the abandoned site. In its heyday, Grass Valley had 70 operating mines with over 300 miles of underground tunnels.
Commissioners heard from scores of local residents who crammed the chambers today in response to the proposed re-opening of the gold mine, which many believe will disrupt the historic town. They considered the impacts this mine could have on the aesthetics of this popular tourist destination as well as the possible environmental consequences they could be facing.
NEW INFORMATION: Almost 500 people attended the County's meeting about environmental impacts of the mine. Of the 101 who picked up tickets to comment, only one spoke in favor of the mine.
Public comments focused on concerns about the wide range of impacts from the mine. Many commenters cited air and water quality as well as noise pollution as huge concerns. The report cited 83 impacts to the surrounding community, with a few of them designated in the report as “significant and unavoidable.” Some stressed that the report was in draft format and predicted more impacts will be revealed before the report is finalized.
Community advocates who reviewed the 1,000-plus page report offered the results of their intense evaluation of the report. They found that the draft report underestimated the impacts of the mine and needs extensive additional re-examination, analysis, and mitigation measures.
“What is most surprising is that after well over a year of preparation, this report has so many missing elements and so many inadequate assessments, stated Ralph Silberstein, CEA Foundation. “Starting with the most fundamental aspects, a good EIR relies upon adequate and reliable data in order for the decision makers to be properly informed. We believe this draft will need to be recirculated.”
Numerous people expressed their concern about the impact on local groundwater, waterways, and homeowners’ wells. According to the report, the analysis focused on just 30 wells in the direct vicinity of the mine. Commenters urged commissioners to expand the scope of the potential impact zone.
“There is no acknowledgement of risk – or plan to safeguard – domestic wells in the surrounding area,” stated Christy Hubbard, a homeowner who lives near the mine site. “The final report must provide significantly better safeguards for well owners. The potential impacts to well owners has been recognized by experts and these impacts must be addressed under CEQA.”
According to the report, about 1500 tons of waste rock and tailings will be processed from the mine daily, with most of it being deposited on-site, or trucked to a 56-acre former mine site. The “Centennial” site is currently under an agreement to be cleaned up with the California Department of Toxic Substances. The DEIR however, did not connect or include the cleanup of that site.
“The site contains contaminants such as arsenic and lead that pose a potential hazard to people and the environment,” stated Ralph Silberstein, President of CEA. “The Centennial site’s potential designation as a Superfund site was conditionally deferred because RISE entered into a cleanup contract. Yet this Draft EIR is based upon an assumption that it is already cleaned up.”
Residents expressed concerns about air quality and the already compromised conditions in Nevada County. The report includes mitigations to reduce the impact, however residents expressed concern.
“Complying with regulatory thresholds doesn't mean zero impact,” stated Bill Clark, Grass Valley resident. Nevada County currently gets an F rating when it comes to air quality and we have twice the State average in lung disease. Fugitive dust from rock crushing and transport; diesel exhaust from constant truck traffic; and the presence of asbestos fibers and dust will make a bad situation much worse.”
Some community members suggested other uses for the 118-acre site.
“Hard rock mining is our past, not our future,” stated Paul Schwartz who is a retired Capital Planner and former planning commissioner. Schwartz suggested the County should look at more alternatives in the environmental report. “Other alternatives create more jobs, use less energy, have lower carbon footprints, and generate more local wealth than the Rise Gold proposal.”
A public comment on the mine began in early January and will close on Monday, April 4th at 5:00 pm.
View the CEA Foundation and coalition comments here: www.minewatchnc.org/post/deir-comments-mar2022
For more information about the potential re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine visit: www.MineWatchNC.org
The mission of the Community Environmental Advocates Foundation (CEA Foundation) is to perform research, education, and advocacy to promote public policy and actions resulting in responsible land use and environmental protection in Nevada County and the Sierra Nevada region. https://www.cea-nc.org/