December 5, 2012 | Back to: Local News

San JUan mine owner: Well failures misconstrued

The owner of the San Juan Mining Corporation who is seeking to reopen a gold mine north of Nevada City is attempting to clarify what he believes are mischaracterizations of widespread well failures that occurred in the mid-1990s.

In 1995, Siskon Gold Corporation mined for gold on the 1,400-acre parcel near the town of North Bloomfield, when drillers punctured a vertical fault full of highly pressurized water.

This caused mine operators to pump water at higher rates from the mine, which impacted 14 wells in proximity to the operation.

One of the wells belonged to Grizzly Hill School, which has been a source of consternation for a group of San Juan Ridge residents who are opposed to the re-opening of the mine.

In a press release issued Tuesday by the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association, the organization asserts the Siskon Gold Corporation is responsible for contamination at the school that persists to this day.

“Water still must be treated and filtered before children can drink it, and this has cost the school district and taxpayers up to $150,000 to date, and continues to cost the school $8,000 a year,” said Kurt Lorenz, former Twin Ridges Elementary School District board member, in the release.

Callaway does not dispute the central facts relating to the well failures and the subsequent water issues, but said the opponents to the project are neglecting to include that the school suffered from water quality issues well before Siskon began operations.

In a letter dated July 31, 1985, nearly 10 years prior to the Siskon operation at the site, the Nevada County Heath Department informed the school district that it was unable to finalize construction plans for a water and sewer system at the school for a variety of reasons including the well exceeding the maximum contaminate level for turbidity and iron.

Again in 1991, water quality samples found high levels
of iron, manganese and turbidity and odors, all of which exceeded state standards, Callaway said.

On Oct. 25, 1993, the school district informed parents of Grizzly Hill school children that students would be provided with bottled water as the system had an unsafe amount of coliform bacteria.

“All of these issues were experienced well before any dewatering activities were occurring at the San Juan Ridge Mine,” Callaway said.

Nevertheless, the SJRTA has concerns that the mine’s reopening would have a detrimental effect on the surrounding watershed.

The proposed re-opening of the mine also raises environmental concerns, as the project would likely discharge huge quantities of water into adjacent drainages and creeks that feed the South Yuba River, the SJRTA release states.

Both sides of the issue will have ample opportunity throughout the application process before the Nevada County Supervisors will be called to approve or deny the project.

At 6 p.m. today, the Nevada County Planning Department will hold a public scoping meeting at the Eric Rood Administrative Center.

The purpose of the meeting tis to incorporate public commentary on what issues should be addressed in an Environmental Impact Report performed by an independent consultant.

Written comments will be accepted until Dec. 10 and should be sent via mail to Tod Herman, Planning Department, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City, CA 95959 or emailed to

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

Matthew Renda

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The Union Updated Dec 5, 2012 07:33AM Published Dec 6, 2012 04:35PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.