Rise Gold CEO Ben Mossman's prior company polluted tribal waters, went bankrupt, and left Canadians with a bill to pay. Mossman is currently on trial in Canada on 9 federal and 20 provincial charges related to spills at the mine.
Read the opinion piece in the Union. This piece was originally published on December 7, 2020. UPDATES are included in blue italics.
Rise Gold, a15 year old mining company that has never opened a mine and never made a profit (1), wants to re-open the Idaho-Maryland Mine here in Grass Valley. They’ve already had some issues with compliance.
After purchasing the Mine in 2016, Rise ran afoul of local regulations while doing their initial explorations. Rules designed to protect sensitive habitat along South Fork Wolf Creek were broken – triggering citations, disturbing residents, and requiring County intervention to bring them into compliance (2).
But there’s a history of violations that runs much deeper than that. CEO Ben Mossman’s last venture before joining Rise Gold was a profound failure, and disregard for regulations and poor management practices appear to have played a significant role in that. His Company, Banks Island Gold, Ltd owned the Yellow Giant Mine in British Columbia, Canada, which polluted tribal waters, went bankrupt, and left Canadians with a mess to clean up.
According to an investigative report by the Vancouver Sun in July of 2015 (3), after the pollution spill was discovered, Banks Island ignored a stop work order from the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines to shut down its processing plant and underground operation. In an interview, Al Hoffman, the Chief Mines Inspector said “Generally we don’t have this level of confusion and level of non-compliance. It worries me, but we are dealing with it as strongly as I can within my statutory authority, and I am going to make sure they are compliant.”
When investigating the spill, mine inspectors observed several violations of mining regulations (4, 5, 6). In addition to the spill, it revealed that Banks Island was not only continuing to process ore in its Yellow Giant facility, but that they had been processing ore from multiple exploration sites out of compliance with their mining permit since its issuance on March 4, 2014. One report further stated that: “One of the magazines was noted to be so full the door to it would not close without considerable effort. [...] This shall not be allowed to happen. The explosives therein are to be reduced and distributed to the other magazine.
In August of 2015, a second spill resulted in another shut down order. In January of 2016, Banks Island declared bankruptcy and walked away – leaving Canadians with only a $420,000 reclamation bond to pay for a cleanup estimated to cost $1.6 million (7).
But the story doesn’t end there. Eventually, there were a total of 35 charges issued and in July 2016, Mossman and another Banks Island executive had 18 pollution charges filed against them personally. They were initially acquitted of the charges, though Mossman was fined $15,000, but the B.C. Supreme Court subsequently overturned that acquittal (8). Despite attempts by their lawyers to block a new trial, a Court of Appeals judge issued a decision to reject those appeals. On July 7, 2023 Judge David Patterson of the Provincial Court in Prince Rupert, British Columbia found Ben Mossman guilty on13 counts related to environmental spills.
The Banks Island disaster prompted an outcry. First by the Gitxaala Nation, who called Mossman’s token fine a “slap in the face” (7), given that it contaminated one of the most important food gathering areas in their traditional territory. And later, legislators and nonprofits called for reform of the B.C. environmental assessment process to close loopholes that allowed the mine to open and operate for 15 months without examination (9).
Adding insult to injury, one of the other injustices of Mossman’s story is that 90 hard-working people lost their jobs when Banks Island went bankrupt. Rise Gold promises new jobs for Nevada County, but if that’s their biggest selling point, their history alone should make us all want to scream and run away. This is not the type of company we want in our community. Truly. Rise and their CEO Ben Mossman shouldn’t be trusted. Tell your Nevada County Supervisor to “just say no!”
By Bob and Christy Hubbard - Grass Valley Homeowners
Mine sediments flow toward a lake from the Yellow Giant Gold Mine on Banks Island. (11)