Rise Gold is attempting to circumvent the County’s permitting process by claiming they have “vested rights” to mine.
For Immediate Release: August 22, 2023
Community Environmental Advocates Foundation
Rise Gold seeks to side-step requirements for mining use permit
Grass Valley, CA – At this year’s May 11 public hearing for the Idaho-Maryland Mine, the Nevada County Planning Commission voted unanimously against the Mine’s Use Permit and Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Now faced with the real possibility of a NO vote by the Board of Supervisors at the final hearings, Rise Gold is trying an unusual tactic aimed at forcing the County to let them reopen the mine.
In a maneuver that would circumvent the normal Use Permit requirements of Nevada County, Rise Gold has met with County representatives and announced that they intend to petition for “Vested Rights” to mine the Idaho-Maryland Mine. Katharine Elliott, County Counsel, stated at the Board meeting on Aug 8 that “…in meetings with Rise Gold recently, they have asserted that they have a vested right to mine. A vested right is a legal principle that asserts that they have a legal right to mine on the Brunswick site. They have not yet filed the petition, but they have told me that they are planning to file that petition. Once they do that, we have a mandate to address that and to take that first before the Planning Commission and then to the Board of Supervisors.” ( See Nevada County Board of Supervisors Meeting August 8, 2023 Part Two | YouTube)
Vested rights are rights held by entities that were already in operation prior to the establishment of the current, more restrictive regulations. A mine operating before the inception of the current Use Permit regulations can, in certain cases, establish vested rights and be exempted from those regulations.
If the County determines that Rise Gold meets the conditions for “Vested Rights”, the Use Permit that is currently headed for the Board of Supervisors for a final vote would not be required. In effect, Rise would be able to operate without having to comply with many of the conditions of approval and mitigations required under the current Use Permit application.
The granting of Vested Rights is a discretionary decision that would be made by the County. After Rise submits a petition for Vested Rights, draft documents would be available for review and Rise would present its case to the Planning Commission in a Public Hearing. The Board would subsequently take the Commission’s recommendation and make the final decision.
The burden of proof is upon the applicant to demonstrate the vested rights claim. The most challenging requirement is to prove that mining activities have been ongoing continuously since before the current Use Permit requirements were enacted. In the case of the Idaho-Maryland Mine, that means that Rise must prove that, after the mine shut down in 1956-57, some level of legal mining activity has persisted at the Idaho-Maryland Mine site over the 65 years since the shut-down.
This is not the first time the issue of Vested Rights has surfaced locally. Rise Gold’s attorney, Braden Chadwick, petitioned for Vested Rights in 2010 while representing the Blue Lead Mine. In that case, the Blue Lead applicants made the claim that they didn’t need a Use Permit because of vested rights, but a closer examination of the facts showed that photos submitted were from other mines and the evidence was unsupported. Because of this, the Planning Commission denied the request, and Blue Lead was required to obtain a normal Use Permit.
Currently, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to make a decision on the Idaho-Maryland Mine Use Permit at public hearings on October 2nd and 3rd. This is the final step of a process that began in 2020. The final EIR for the project was released in December 2022. In response, over one thousand comments were submitted by citizens to the County expressing serious concerns about the risks of the mine and the inadequacy of the environmental report. In May 2023, the County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the Board of Supervisors not certify the EIR and not grant the Use Permit.
In an unusual coincidence, Rise Gold CEO Benjamin Mossman is scheduled to be sentenced on pollution charges in Canada on September 26th, just one week before the Board of Supervisors’ final vote. Mossman was found guilty in British Columbia for the environmental damage caused at the Yellow Giant Mine, which polluted tribal waters, went bankrupt and left Canadians with insufficient funds to clean up the damage. The sentencing could include prison time.
Ralph Silberstein, CEA Foundation President, stated “This maneuver to obtain vested rights at this stage of the approval process is very questionable. If Rise felt that they had vested rights, why spend years of time and millions of dollars to get to this point in the normal Use Permitting process? It seems very unlikely that Rise has a valid case. Perhaps they are simply seeking to delay the final hearings.”
More information on the project can be found on the County project webpage. 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. CEA Foundation is the leader of MineWatch, a campaign that brings together a coalition of nonprofit organizations, residents, and businesses opposed to the mine.
Read this in The Union newspaper.