The story behind Nevada Irrigation District’s purchase of the mercury machine is unique to Gold Country and Nevada County in particular.
NID — which has a lease-to-buy contract with Pegasus Earth Sensing Corp. — will eventually pay $600,000 for the mercury machine if it continues to function.
Half of the purchase price was found in a safety deposit box in the Bank of America located on Church Street in the form of six gold bars, said NID Director Nick Wilcox.
NID Finance Director Marie Owens, who has since retired, recently found a key in a drawer without a corresponding lock.
Wilcox said NID lore had long held that there was a stash of gold secreted away in some safety deposit box.
So Wilcox, Owens and former General Manager Ron Nelson took a field trip to the Grass Valley bank.
What they found was 300 ounces of gold in six separate oblong misshapen bars, Wilcox said. The officials took the bars to a gold buyer, where it was determined they consisted of 71 percent pure gold with a total value of about $300,000.
“We determined we could pay for some of our operations in gold,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox said the use of the gold bars to pay for the mercury remediation project is particularly apt.
The bars were given to NID by RJ Miles, a gravel mining company based in Colfax, as payment for a mining lease for Combie Lake.
Essentially, NID is using proceeds from past mining operations to pay for a project that will clean up the toxic legacy from those and similar operations.
“It closes the circle,” Wilcox said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.