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.