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Risks of reopening mine no joke

What if our wells go dry just like they did at the most recent mining operation in North San Juan? Tony Lauria writes for The Union about the destruction to the environment and elimination of precious resources if Rise Gold reopens the Idaho-Maryland Mine.

Read it in The Union.


It is without conscience and integrity for a company to waltz into a residential community and falsely proclaim they will cause no environmental impacts with their heavy industrial mining operation.

The very nature of deep bedrock gold mining is inherently tied to environmental impacts. The facts of history confirm this. The statement by Rise Gold’s CEO, in a KOVR 13 news interview, said they have designed their operation to have no impacts. How could this be any further from the truth?

Dewatering the region’s aquifers at the rate of 4 million gallons per day for six months, then 1 million every day thereafter for 80 years is an environmental impact. It might be an environmental disaster.

The complexity of hydrology makes it impossible to predict how far reaching this dewatering process will impact the quality of life for the residents who live here. The amount of churned contaminants that might be released and pumped out of these aquifers would be a significant impact. There is no guarantee those toxic elements will not mix with existing water stores and contaminate residential water sources.

Furthermore, the loss of a precious resource, in the midst of declining water levels and frequent droughts, might significantly burden this environment and its inhabitants.

There is a reason no active deep bedrock gold mines exist in Nevada County any more. The legacy of the gold mining industry has scarred many square miles of land here, with extreme toxic consequences.

The Lava Cap Mine continues to fail complete clean-up efforts, initiated during the federal Superfund program. Downstream, Lost Lake still maintains its contamination status from the mine’s runoff. Similar hazardous conditions exist at, virtually, all other previous local mines, including the Idaho-Maryland Mine.

Not only is this dewatering process an environmental impact, but its potential to destroy the hundreds of residential water wells, within their boundaries, is another collateral impact that should never be risked. Such a failure in their “no impact design” could render hundreds of homes without a clean water source and devalue property severely, undoubtedly triggering a mass exodus of residents from the county.

What if our wells go dry due to this mining operation? They cannot guarantee it won’t happen. If this company turns a blind eye to this possibility, they are proving their lack of conscientious integrity. In other words, they simply do not care who gets thrown under the bus for their profits.

Consider the failure at the most recent mining operation in North San Juan. The Siskon Mine company stated the same falsehoods of estimating no potential negative consequences. After a dozen wells were destroyed and the company filed for bankruptcy, the citizens were left to bear the burden of those consequences. If you have not seen it, this documentary shows it all:

This represents only the tip of the iceberg with known environmental impacts associated with gold mining. The company CEO has already been fined twice for toxic spills in British Columbia. Does the county have a budget to watchdog his operations here?

Our risk, for profit in the pockets of this company, has no benefit for our community. How many jobs are worth the risk to the hundreds of homeowners that could lose everything, and our towns that could suffer the fallout of this industrial takeover?

Their application to change the zoning to heavy industrial is simply an unconscionable action. It’s been 70 years since this mine was in operation. None of the residents here agreed to this possibility when they purchased their homes. A zoning change should never be permitted.

Do not allow this Canadian company to risk our clean air, water and quality of life for their own benefit. The potential impacts are severe and might foretell a very grim upcoming 80 years for the community. The potential environmental and economic destruction of this area could ripple through both Grass Valley and Nevada City regardless of the proximity to ground zero.

There is power in numbers. Show your opposition to the mine proposal every way you can. Write to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and express who will get your upcoming vote. Tell them they must protect the people they were elected to serve and stand up to these would-be takers of our resources, clean air and quality of life.

Tony Lauria lives in Grass Valley.


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