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
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.
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.
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?
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