EJM Letter about Reopening the Mine

Mr. Matt Kelley, Senior Planner
Nevada County Planning Department
RE: Idaho-Maryland Mine Proposal

Dear Matt Kelley,

Earth Justice Ministries is a local interfaith nonprofit dedicated to the work of peace, justice, and the restoration of the community of life. Our work is primarily local, but we think globally and address today’s interrelated issues from a spiritual perspective. We have two primary questions that we would like you to address regarding the proposal to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine (IMM):

  • Would the cumulative impacts of reopening the IMM primarily help or harm the interconnected community of human and other-than-human life in our region and beyond?

From what we have read of Rise Gold’s plan, the answer is “harm.” If that is the case, we will stand strongly against the proposal. If Rise demonstrates that all potential harm will be mitigated and that the mine will have overall benefit to the community of life, and if the plan is approved, the second question is this:

  • Will the County require a sufficient bond to be paid in advance to guarantee the conditions under which the permit was granted into the future?

The list of categories of concerns in the NOP does not take into consideration that these concerns are all interrelated. Ancient wisdom and scientific evidence affirm that humans are part of the interdependent community of life. When people write about the quality of air, water, soil, and the health of plants and wildlife in our area, it should be understood that a degraded bioregion will impact humans along with other life forms. When people write of concerns about the tremendous increase in energy use resulting in a much greater regional carbon footprint, it should be understood that the mine will accelerate climate change, which disproportionately harms those who are most vulnerable and will create immense hardship for future generations. Many people and organizations in our community are working hard to preserve the gifts of creation in this place and to transition to a world of climate justice. When people write about the (not just potential but stated) impacts of noise from drilling and heavy machinery running night and day, damage to roads caused by trucks carrying tons of toxic tailing (even through town), the release of asbestos from the tons of rock being crushed every day, wells running dry because of the massive dewatering operations, it is important to look at all these problems as pointing to a project that will not help, but will harm individuals who live near the mine, our dear Nevada County community, and the interrelated community of life of which we are a part. Even the issue of aesthetics should be seen in this larger context of overall quality of life, as many people find spiritual comfort in the beauty of this place, even while it nurtures biodiversity.

The gold extracted from this mine will not stay here but will be exported to Canada. The impacts will be with us for generations, as we know from the lasting impacts of legacy mining. To us, this is a spiritual and moral issue. Temporary jobs and corporate profits should not supersede the well-being of individuals, communities, the larger world, or future generations.

Thank you for considering our questions and we look forward to your answer.

Board of Directors of Earth Justice Ministries

Guarionex Delgado

Tracy Pepper

Brian Fry

Ruby Chow

The Rev. Sharon Delgado




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.