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Tony Lauria: Mining history is rife with harmful effects

Should the people living in our county be made to endure the risks of gold mining for the profit of one company? Even considering such a proposal seems unthinkable today.

This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.


No matter what your stance on the current controversial Rise Gold proposal, gold mining generally is known to be one of the most destructive industries in the world.

It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers and destroy pristine environments. It often pollutes water and land with arsenic, mercury, cyanide and other chemicals. It fills the air with tiny particles of silica and asbestos dust that drift far and wide with the wind. It exposes sulfides in rock which react with water and air to form sulfuric acid.

It’s estimated that 40% of the headwaters of Western watersheds have been polluted by mining, and acid mine drainage is a major cause. Put bluntly, mining operations have always endangered the health of people and ecosystems.

Here’s a noteworthy local example of mining impacts in residential areas; The Lava Cap Mine, just a few miles from Idaho-Maryland Mine:

The real questions are: Should the thousands of people living in our county be made to endure these risks for the profit of one company? Should this one company be allowed to take the chance of ruining the only source of clean water for hundreds of homes?

Should this one company be allowed to endanger families with their storage and transport of high explosives over open roads?

Should this company be granted the freedom to contribute tons of carbon and contaminants into the air in the form of diesel exhaust and cancer causing dusts, as well as consume massive amounts of our county’s energy and water resources?

No one bought their homes here with the disclosure that future drilling and blasting could be happening underground 24/7/365. No one was told the light industrially zoned former mine site could be rezoned to accommodate the heavy industry of mining.

No one dreamed that an industry rife with environmental destructive exploitation would be considered worth the risk a century later.

I don’t believe these impacts can be mitigated to anywhere near “less than significant.”

By now, everyone has received the mailer from Rise Gold as they continue the attempt to sell us on this proposal. Any claims that the draft environmental impact report supports this plan are far from accurate.

The fact is, D stands for Draft. This is not a final report. That is why there is a public comment period, whereby educated professionals can analyze what’s in the draft. So far, critics find it to be sorely deficient in everything from the hydrology to air pollution, along with the many other impacts mentioned.

Nationally, I see articles saying the loss in value for homes within the mineral boundaries of an operational mine is 20%. This figure could descend to a 100% loss should wells be drained or destroyed. Many local real estate agents completely agree. Millions could be lost in home values. Millions more lost revenue to the county in taxes from those devaluations. How many underpaid, unskilled, underground dangerous mining jobs are worth that cost?

I hope for a massive outcry condemning this high-risk proposal at the upcoming March 24 county meeting, along with a deluge of comments on the deficiencies in the draft report. It is definitely a fight to save our water, air and quality of life. Get help and info from

Tony Lauria lives in Grass Valley.


This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.


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