Letter re: Idaho-Maryland Mine Proposal

Letter by Tony Lauria

[Friends, this is a comprehensive letter put together by Tony Lauria, which he is submitting to Nevada County regarding what needs to be considered when putting together a draft Environmental Impact Report for the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine. I am posting the letter here with permission, to be used as a reference for writing our own letter.  If you want to send it as is, see below for a note from Tony and for details as to where your letter should be send. The deadline is August 17.]

RE: Idaho-Maryland Mine Proposal

Mr. Kelley,

The history of gold mining in Nevada County has shown us, time and time again, that devastating impacts to the community and environment go hand in hand with this invasive industry.

The current mine reopening proposal violates every tenet associated with a community that desires clean abundant water, air and a healthy sustainable life in our ideal peaceful foothill town. We depend on our home and property investment as a means to see us through our eventual retirement in these beautiful foothills of Nevada County. This proposal is a blatant, outrageous threat to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this community.

It is imperative that you order non-biased, independent and comprehensive tests and analysis, for the complex issues of environmental impacts associated with this proposal.

Analysis and Reports necessary:

1 Hydro Geology (underground flow) & Hydrology (above ground flow)
We know there is underground water flow, shown by the need for dewatering and continuous pump out. We must have a comprehensive, before the fact, understanding of all facets of this water flow, including contamination and discharge to the environment.
The report submitted by Rise does not mention that underground water flow is dominated by fractures and faults. An expert report will demonstrate that these cracks are ubiquitous to Nevada County’s geology. This is how the entire designated area, and beyond, will suffer the complete loss of all usable water, during mining operations. The dewatering alone, at the rate of 3.6 million gallons per day will drain the aquifer in a time when water is even more precious for the fire safety of the citizens. Hundreds of residential wells will go dry. There is no possible way to mitigate this impact to less than significant. Any proposed extension of NID public water, is highly troublesome. Besides residents facing the loss of their high quality, free, well water, they would be forced to pay for a public service. And, most of the potentially affected homes do not have that public water option, since the infrastructure is not in place.

2 Land Use and Planning – Zoning
The project’s proposed rezone does exactly what zoning should not; create a nuisance to incompatible adjacent existing residentially zoned uses. The existing proposed sites are zoned “light” industrial. We do not approve of changing this, and did not purchase our home adjacent to a potential “heavy” industrial site. The underground operations are also “heavy” industrial and reach into residential areas above. These drilling and blasting impacts cannot be mitigated to less than significant. A plan of 80 years of heavy industrial mining will cause this area to be a wasteland of contaminated grounds and air.

3 Heavy truck/equipment Noise, Blasting Noise and Associated Earth Tremors.
This will be unbearable for residents within several miles of the sites. Noise travels great distances. Wildlife and citizens alike will be impacted to a significant degree. CEQA requires a comprehensive study of the proposed projects impacts; both for construction noise impacts and and operational noise impacts.
Aside from this proposal, there are other construction projects approved and on the drawing board in the vicinity. The cumulative impacts, together with this project, must be comprehensively analyzed.

4 Transportation & Traffic
Ingress and Egress will be severely hampered with the constant truck traffic. With only one route to evacuation, Greenhorn residents will be trapped, should there be a wildfire. Road repair estimates for heavy truck/equipment traffic must be studied. The project appears to present a new impediment for citizens east of the site, to Grass Valley and hwy 49/20, that must be analyzed. Expected levels of service must be presented for the purpose of analyzing impacts, or alternatives.
Traffic Engineers, Cal Trans, and the CHP should be consulted for the purpose of reporting on this.

5 Economic
Our area risks losing high tech companies that will move due to the combined impacts of this mine. The underground boundaries of this proposal reach near or below existing tech companies. Hundreds of residents will move out of the area due to the combined impacts. This must be studied and reported on, in terms of economic consequences in loss of revenue. Additionally, the devalued property will affect the county economically with the loss of property taxes. Real Estate reports must be ordered to assess the potential of lost property values.

6 Air Quality – Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Realistic measurements must be studied to determine the impacts on clean air, from the endless heavy diesel truck and machinery exhaust volume. The release of unhealthy particulate matter into the air, from blasting, drilling and loading of toxic asbestos, chemicals and heavy metals, must be analyzed. A separate study must be done for the release of chemicals into the air, caused by the ammonium nitrate blasting. The carbon emitted into the atmosphere will be in the thousands of tons per year. This must be accurately studied and reported on.

7 Agriculture and Forestry Impact
Valuable natural assets will be devastated by the loss of 3.6 million gallons of water daily. Noise and air pollution will further exacerbate problems. Even at their own admission, the Rise NOP indicates unique, rare or endangered species will be lost. We already have bark Beetles and drought affecting our forests. What can we expect from this operation to exacerbate conditions? Rise has no plan or study for the impact of such massive water loss and pollution.

8 Terrestrial and Aquatic Biological Resources
A study must be done on the impacts to these natural conditions, as well as the potential loss of unique wildlife and species of vegetation. Both extremes exist; loss of water to keep everything alive, and the flood of toxic water on outflows, all the way to the Sacramento Valley and beyond. When a well is run dry and your animals cannot be given water, what are the options?

9 Existing Superfund clean up site
Rise places this secondary, when in fact, it’s a primary concern. This needs to be studied and a recommendation proposed for immediate clean up. Another existing Superfund clean up site is Lava Cap Mine. After years of attempting to mitigate the contamination, Lost Lake is still highly toxic. Signs are posted to keep away from the water. Empire Mine has equally toxic areas which remain fenced off to the public, as well as numerous sink holes.
The impacts of these should be considered cumulatively. Before anything is done to open this project, these sites must be cleaned up to a level of impacts that will not invade the environment. Any action ahead of this clean up is blatant negligence.

10 Friable asbestos in serpentine rock
Our foothills are composed of much serpentine rock. This contains large amounts of asbestos, which can be expected to become friable upon processing. A complete expert report must be made in reference to this subject. Rise cannot mitigate releasing this toxic substance into the environment to a less than significant impact. Additionally, what are the long term affects of the paste that is mentioned, which is pumped back into the ground? What will an expert in the future report on this issue? Please explain the methodology for a report like this to be viable for an 80 year project.

11 Water Quality in/outflows
Sacramento Central Valley Water Quality Control Board must be contacted to review the proposed outflows of 3.6 million gallons of contaminated water, daily. An evaluation must be done by this agency before awarding a waste drainage requirements permit. Again, history has shown that highly contaminated outflows of mining operations are full of heavy metals in toxic volumes. This contaminated flow was known to reach the Bay Area during measurements of past mine outflows. A comprehensive analysis of this discharge effluent by downstream users, must assess the impacts to people and organisms affected by it, the entire distance of travel to the pacific.

12 Utilities and Energy Use Impact
It’s stated that the equivalent energy used by 5000 homes would be required by this project. The overreach of this project cannot be understated. This is an impact of significance on our electrical infrastructure. A study and report must be made as to who will pay for PG & E to upgrade our systems, as well as what strain on existing service will impact residents until those upgrades are done, or not done at all. We’re talking about a product that is mere ounces per ton, for the exchange of all this energy and impact.

13 Hazards
Trucks would be transporting explosives into the area. Should any one of these deliveries, or handlings go wrong, we will suffer a forest fire catastrophe on a massive scale. Our school bus routes are all around this area. In fact, the Durham School Bus Transportation yard is on Bennett St., less than a mile from the Centennial site. We should not allow these hazardous materials anywhere near the proposed area. There are also other hazards associated with a mining operation. Chemicals, oil, engine cooling systems compounds..all of which can leak and create an even more toxic environment. A study needs to be done on the potential impacts of these collateral issues.
Additionally, If there is no specific knowledge of the location of fractures and fissures underground, and an explosive charge is detonated, a significant hazard is eminent. How will the surrounding residential areas react beneath and above the ground? This must be studied and explained.

14 Impacts on the Aesthetics of the area must be studied and reported
Would an industrial wasteland fulfill the county’s desire for a healthy sustainable, beautiful foothill area, that would benefit existing residents, and inspire tourism?

These required requests for analysis’ must be comprehensive. They must contain a reasonable range of feasible alternatives. All reports must demonstrate the methodology and facts supporting it’s conclusions. It must seek to explain the adequacy or inadequacy of all mitigation measures, and it must consider all impacts both individually and cumulatively. A reasonable range of feasible alternatives, including “No Project” must be proposed and analyzed.

This proposal is intensely stressful for all of us. The prospect of losing our precious water, and having to endure the impacts to our environment, is already affecting us severely, as we are now having to manage our emotional life in the face of such potential devastation to our homes and lifestyle. In a time of climate change, high fire danger, and drought conditions regionally, the loss of our precious water resource is unacceptable. The real costs of this project will be shouldered by the citizens of this area. Were it properly shouldered by the proponents of this project, there would not be any profit. This Canadian company will be making it’s profit from the monetary and physical hardships of the citizens in the surrounding residential community. This type of project needs to be disclosed to every perspective buyer of property in the area, because they/we will be paying for the disaster that ensues by these mining operations.

Will the Rise company set aside a bond of millions of dollars to guarantee coverage for the draining of wells and loss of property value? How will they be made responsible for health claims from exposure to toxic substances, which has occurred in every other mine, and likely to occur with this one?

There are too many risks to the community to have another toxic mining operation begin the same devastation this industry has known in the past. Please obtain all new extensive reports from every agency and expert possible. This disaster must not be allowed to cause our beautiful area to become an industrial wasteland. For the few temporary jobs it might bring, and the gold in the pockets of Canadians, hundreds, if not thousands, of residents will be impacted and likely be leaving the county.

As county government representatives, you have an obligation to protect us, our children, our jobs, our waters, our wildlife, our air and our forests.

In closing, I reference the facts, shared in this documentary of the Siskon Gold mine disaster in North San Juan: https://vimeo.com/120747168

This information is direct and factual. There is no way Rise can guarantee they will not devastate our water and community in the same manner. And who will pay for that damage? Rise? Nevada County?

Tony Lauria

Note from Tony to people who plan to use this letter to send  to the County:

“If you would like to use my letter, add an opening statement of personal introduction and explain that my letter represents your views and concerns on the matter, in a more effective manner than you might be able to verbalize. State that the potential impacts are so many and so complex, and an invasive mine so unwanted, it is crucial that our community submit the most thorough list of measures that must be taken to prove this should not be allowed happen. That will provide the personal touch, which I expect they would prefer to see, rather than just receiving the same letter over and over.”]

Send by August 17 to

Could also be sent to

Also send a copy of your finished letter to

 

 

 

Reopening Idaho-Maryland Mine still a bad idea

by Jonathan Keene, president of Wolf Creek Community Alliance

Published in the Grass Valley Union, June 24, 2020

Once again, a junior mining company from Canada has arrived in town with an eye to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine. So far, Rise Gold Corp. has not made a good impression.

If you’re new to the area, or your memory fades on the subject, here’s a quick refresher:

Every 5 or 10 years, gold mine investors get excited about the idea of re-opening an abandoned mine. These investment companies are often from out of state. In particular, “junior” mining companies from Canada operate in California because they enjoy funding loopholes that encourage speculation. The last such company, Emgold, threw in the towel after it was unable to complete the permitting process in 2012.

Rise is the latest case, and has been behaving as these companies often do. So far, Rise has had difficulty complying with some of the most basic Nevada County land use regulations.

In 2017, at their site off East Bennett Road, they began by removing a healthy stand of trees without a Timber Harvest Plan. Cal Fire issued two citations for this infraction — one to the property owner and one to the logging company. Then they started construction of an equipment storage pad. However, South Fork Wolf Creek, a perennial tributary of Wolf Creek, runs close by, and Rise neglected to follow the simple minimum 100-foot riparian setback requirement for streams in Nevada County. This is not a complicated rule: one simply needs a measuring tape, some wooden stakes, and a hammer. Start at the “Ordinary High Water Mark” of the stream, measure 100 feet, and drive some stakes. To be safe, add 5 feet. Connect the dots and you have a line showing the non-disturbance zone: no construction, no equipment, no disturbance is allowed.

Nevertheless, Rise’s newly-graded pad was clearly located on the wrong side of the line by 10 feet or 20 feet, and they encroached even farther with heavy equipment, a large pile of logs, and stacks of brush and small trees. For these violations, the County required Rise to file a Management Plan, which told them to remove the logs and clean up the worst of the thrashed non-disturbance zone. When this was done, the company moved in their big exploratory drilling equipment. Apparently, still no one had pulled out a measuring tape; the equipment was set down on the wrong side of the line. This time the County insisted on a second, much more comprehensive Management Plan. Eventually, they installed the stakes correctly and relocated the equipment once more to protect South Fork Wolf Creek.

All of this took about a year, and then Rise fired up their heavy equipment. That’s when the neighbors really started to complain.

You probably know the area around the intersection of Brunswick, East Bennett, and Greenhorn roads. Since the last of the Grass Valley mines closed in the 1950s, this has become a quiet, highly desirable, rural-residential neighborhood. Most lots are 1 to 5 acres, with easy access to both downtown Grass Valley and Glenbrook. The homes are on private wells and septic tanks.

The exploratory equipment operated by Rise for 16 months was essentially a super-sized well-drilling rig. It could go a mile deep and was multi-directional, so it could “explore” under neighboring properties. There was no county or state oversight on damage it might do to local aquifers or water wells. And it operated 24/7. The neighbors, being subjected to continuous loud noise and bright lights, had to call the sheriff in the middle of the night and file complaints; eventually Rise constructed a 20-foot tall “sound barrier,” to almost no effect. One county supervisor visited a neighboring house and was astounded by the noise impacting a residential area.

Despite the problems outlined above in following simple rules, in November 2019, Rise submitted an application to Nevada County for a use permit and reclamation plan to reopen the Idaho-Maryland mine.

Rise Grass Valley is a brand-new company registered in California in 2017 as a subsidiary of Canadian-based Rise Gold Corp. Ben Mossman is CEO of Rise Gold, Rise Grass Valley and was CEO of failed Banks Island Gold Ltd., which reportedly accumulated fines and citations due to as many as 35 violations of Canadian Fisheries, Environmental Management, and Water Acts. The company went bankrupt.

Like the previous two attempts to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine, Rise will be spending millions of investors’ dollars to learn, once again, that it is still a bad idea.

Jonathan Keehn is president of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.

Jonathan Keehn: Reopening Idaho-Maryland Mine still a bad idea

Racism, Genocide, and Ecocide

by Dianna Suarez, founder of Friends of Bear River (FROBERI).

Published June 26, 2020 in the Grass Valley Union.

First they took the water. The indigenous people of California were prospering here because of the gentle climate and abundance of food. The first disturbance noticed was to the water, because it is essential to life.

Why did the white miners and settlers think they were entitled to divert and impound the water that ran in the creeks and rivers?

Most of the large oaks in the 250-acre Bear River Park, located near Colfax on Bear River between Rollins and Combie reservoirs, are canyon live oaks. There are also very large black oaks, old growth ponderosa pines, and Douglas fir trees. These trees are between 300 and 700 years old. They have stood for centuries as this land and this river have gone through their seasons and the changes in weather cycles and land use. Many surrounding areas were denuded of trees because they were flat and more accessible to roads and railways. Why did the white miners and settlers feel entitled to cut down all the trees?

Old growth trees were beloved by the indigenous Nisenan people who saw them as beloved relatives and elders. The trees stood and watched the genocide of these original people by a new breed of humans who did not see these trees as living relatives to be treasured. These were the miners and settlers who came here starting in 1849. When the Nisenan and their villages on the ridge between the Bear and American rivers were massacred and burned, the survivors ran into the Bear River canyon to escape, to these trees for safety.

Why did the white miners and Placer Blades militia think it was OK to murder indigenous people and burn down their villages?

At one time this Bear River canyon was proposed to become a reservation where the Nisenan could live in safety. The Barbour Treaties were negotiated with the California Indians in 1851 and 1852. The indigenous people agreed in good faith to give up their lifeways and left their beloved places. The Nisenan were promised a reservation with boundaries starting at Camp Far West military fort running 12 miles up Bear River and then due north to the Yuba River, excluding Rough and Ready but including Penn Valley. The boundary then went 12 miles down the Yuba River and then due south back to Camp Far West.

According to “An American Genocide, “The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe” by Benjamin Madley, page 168: President Millard Fillmore submitted all 18 treaties along with a letter of support on June 1, 1852. “On July 8, 1852, U.S. Senators, meeting in a secret session, unanimously repudiated all eighteen treaties. The Senate then placed the eighteen treaties and associated documents under an ‘injunction of secrecy.’ These documents were on file and presumably accessible in the U.S. Department of the Interior, but the Senate did not lift its injunction until January 18, 1905, fifty-three years later.”

Why are we supportive of a government system that lies, cheats, and steals?

The answer to all these questions is racism — racism resulting in the genocide of the local indigenous people. As we all know now, this scourge of racism exists today in the words and actions of the descendants of the settlers, people of privilege, and the government that represents us. Today we call out that racism.

That same racism was on display in the secret, closed session board meeting of the Nevada Irrigation District. At 9:57 a.m., on Aug.13, 2014, closed session was called at the Nevada Irrigation District Board Meeting, and the public, if there were any, was removed from the room. Litigation was discussed for over half an hour. The meeting was reconvened at 10:30 a.m. for two minutes, and during this time, the NID Board passed Resolution No. 2014-43, authorizing application for Centennial Dam, without any discussion or public involvement. Did the NID Board know that this proposal would destroy the last remaining access for the surviving Nisenan people to their sacred Bear River; the last vestige of a culture subject to genocide for the last 150 years?

I don’t know, but when they were told, they didn’t care.

The NID Board knows and understands that this river cannot be replaced, and yet some members persist in this racism, this genocide, this ecocide of the ancient trees and indigenous lifeways of the Nisenan people, who once lived freely and happily in this beautiful place, along Bear River.

Dianna Suarez lives in Colfax.

Dianna Suarez: Racism, genocide, and ecocide

Immigration Action Alliance and Earth Justice Ministries Helping Those in Need

Other Voices Column by Avila Lowrance.  See Immigration Action Alliance and Earth Justice Ministries Helping Those in Need, published in The Grass Valley Union, June 25, 2020.

Immigration Action Alliance is a small organization that most people in Nevada County have never heard of. We have been active since 2017 and have been engaged in projects both locally and at the state level that address the needs and rights of our immigrant community.

We have traveled to the borders of California, Arizona, and Texas to support families who are separated from their children and who face deportation to dangerous areas of Mexico and Central America. We have supported immigrants financially, socially, and legally who have been confined to jail by ICE, whose only “crime” is that they are not citizens of the U.S.

We have distributed information in Spanish and English that informs immigrants of their legal rights so that they have a line of defense against an ICE raid to their homes or places of work. We have supported Dreamers from local families and helped them apply to the DACA program. Before the pandemic we often met migrants at the Sacramento bus station on their way to a sponsor, greeting them with a smile and a bag of homemade sandwiches to let them know they are welcome in America. We are currently providing needed resources to a migrant farm working family of four who is struggling financially due to the pandemic.

We have drawn attention to the many ways that immigrants are important to our community and to the struggles they face to live in safety and provide a future for their children in our country. We hold that immigrants are essential workers, that “Immigrants Lives Matter,” and along with our strong defense of the Black Lives Matter movement, we fight for justice for both groups as one. We have recently become allied with Earth Justice Ministries of Nevada County, an organization that for years has bravely fought for peace, social justice, and environmental justice, and is now actively helping us to support the immigrant community.

The lockdown caused by the pandemic has hit all of us hard, and this is especially true for immigrant families. This segment of the population is represented strongly in the service industries in our county: restaurants, food service workers, health care workers, janitorial workers as well as roofers and landscape workers. These are brave and hard-working people who have fought and sacrificed hard to get to our country and who are making Nevada County their home. They are our neighbors. Many continue to hold their jobs while facing a certain risk of contracting the virus. But many of them have lost their jobs and are having a hard time putting food on the table.

People have been contacting Immigration Action Alliance who want to know how they can help a family in our community. Kind, generous community members have offered to share their stimulus check with an immigrant family but are not sure how to do that since many do not know a family personally. If this is something you would like to do, the Alliance strongly suggests buying a gift card in any amount to a local grocery store, perhaps Grocery Outlet, and contacting the Alliance to make a connection with a family that is struggling. We will deliver the card to that family and at the same time tell you a little about them, where they are from, how many in the family, perhaps their line of work. In order to protect them and ensure their trust in us, we assure any family who receives a gift card that we do not reveal their identity to the donor or to anyone else, ever.

So far, we have been able to deliver $2,850 worth of gift cards to local families. We thank the many kind people who have provided gift cards to so many families. It makes a huge difference to them, they are genuinely touched, and truly grateful to their community.

To contact Immigration Action Alliance please email . Checks can be mailed to Earth Justice Ministries, P.O. Box 783, Nevada City CA 95959 with a designation to IAA. To contact Earth Justice Ministries, visit http://www.earth-justice.org.

Avila Lowrance lives in Grass Valley.