★ Ray Bryars: Questions about explosives at mine

Like many concerned residents in our community, I have been struggling to gather information from the Idaho-Maryland Mine Project Draft Environmental Impact Report.


After recent news items about disastrous explosions related to ammonium nitrate used for explosives to mine for gold and use in fertilizers, I decided to see what the report says about explosives.


I have reviewed section 4.7 – Hazards and Hazardous Materials section of the report and was shocked at how they could possibly conclude that there are “No significant issues.” This is explosives materials they are addressing — how could there not be issues?

West Texas, 2013, ammonium nitrate stored in fertilizer plant detonated in a massive explosion that killed 14, injured about 200.


Chinese port of Tianjin, 2015, explosions at warehouse storing ammonium nitrate and other chemicals killed over 116 people.


Port of Beirut in Lebanon, 2020 a catastrophic warehouse fire caused ammonium nitrate to explode, killing over 200, injuring over 6,000 more. It was so large that it was initially registered as an earthquake


2022 headline: “Truck carrying explosives for mining collides with motorcycle, setting off massive deadly explosion in Ghana.” Resulted in 13 deaths, over 50 people injured and a small town partially destroyed.


As I write this, an ammonium nitrate plant in North Carolina is burning out of control for a third day, 6,000 people evacuated and it is projected to be one of the worst explosions in U.S. history. Does Nevada County need to take a similar risk? I urge our Nevada Country supervisors to say no.


Ammonium nitrate can be mixed with other substances to make bombs. It was used in Irish Republican Army bombings in London in the 1990s; the 1995 explosion that blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people; and the 2002 blasts in Bali nightclubs in which more than 200 died. Many of the homemade bombs that were used against U.S. troops in Afghanistan contained ammonium nitrate.


From what I’ve seen, there is not one standard, but there are a lot of detailed requirements that if followed could make the storage of explosives safer.


Unfortunately Ben Mossman, who is the head guy at Rise Gold, does not have a good record when it comes to following safe practices. His Banks Island Gold Company was charged with causing a toxic waste spill in British Columbia, Canada, back in 2015. Commercial production started in January and he was ordered to stop operations in July. The company filed for bankruptcy in January 2016. It sure didn’t take him long to make a mess and screw things up.


Below are some comments that I’ll be sending to the county regarding the draft report:


Explosive storage:


On page 4.7-27 it specifies that no mining is proposed closer than 500 feet from the surface, thus explosives in transit would be at least this far from the surface. Again, a ridiculous statement. At this point it is not known what impediments will be found in the mine shaft. It has been decades since anyone has been into the mine, so there could be huge blockages that will require explosives to blast through.


Question: Can they guarantee that no explosives will ever be used above 500 feet below ground level?


Report conclusion:


On page 4.7-30 it states that “compliance with applicable federal, state and local regulations would minimize the potential for the proposed project to result in a significant hazard to the public or the environment through the routine transport, use or disposal of hazardous materials.”


Question: Why would the county knowingly subject its residents to any risk? We all know that humans make mistakes and accidents happen. If this project is approved, it is almost a certainty that a disaster will happen. Does Nevada County need to take this risk? I urge you to say no.


On page 4.7-31 it states: “It is conservatively concluded that the proposed project could result in a significant impact related to the routine transport, storage and use of explosives.”


Question: Why should the community of Grass Valley subject its residents to these risks? It makes no sense, for any period of time, let alone the proposed 80 years? Please send your comments regarding the draft environmental impact report to Matt.kelley@co.nevada.ca.us.


Ray Bryars lives in Nevada City.

 

This opinion piece was originally posted in The Union.


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