Mine talk today | TheUnion.com

Mine talk today

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a contract today with a consulting firm to perform an environmental analysis on the proposed reopening of a gold mine on the San Juan Ridge.

If approved, the contract, worth about $180,000, will go to Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based consulting firm PMC, according to the staff report attached to today’s board agenda.

The item is placed on the consent calendar, meaning it is expected to be non-controversial.

However, members of the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association will attend and request discussion on the item, said Sara Greensfelder, a member of the association.

“We feel that the amount of money allocated to the EIR ($179,000) is inadequate in light of the past history and impacts of the mine,” Greensfelder said in an email to The Union.

The past history refers to 1995, when at least 10 wells in proximity to the mine failed when workers drilled into a fault, draining an area aquifer, according to previous reports. Well failures included the North Columbia Schoolhouse and Grizzly Hill School.

Residents on the Ridge have expressed concern a similar incident could occur if the mine is reopened.

“Although this item is on the consent agenda, we will have a presence at the meeting, and someone from our group will make a statement,” Greensfelder said.

The mine, located near North Columbia, last operated between 1993 and 1997 by Siskon Gold Corporation, until mounting pressure from nearby residents combined with the declining price of gold to force the operation’s closure, said San Juan Mining Corp. CEO Tim Callaway, who is behind the proposed re-opening.

Siskon relinquished its use permit after closing the mine and remediating the site in 1998, meaning a new Environmental Impact Report will be a necessary condition for recommencing operations, the staff report states. The mining company is required to deposit the cost of the consulting contract, plus an additional 10 percent to cover staff time.

Callaway said he is committed to minimizing impacts on surrounding residents this time around. In a previous interview with The Union, Callaway acknowledged a number of wells were impacted but insists there is no chance of a reoccurrence.

“I don’t think anything is going to alleviate everyone’s concerns,” Callaway said in March. “But we can try to put together a model that makes sense.”

Cell tower decision expected

The board will also hear an appeal by Juliet Erickson and Peter Lockyer, property owners in Penn Valley who are protesting the proposed construction of a cellular tower on an adjacent parcel.

Initially, the county proposed placing the 45-foot tower about 9 feet away from the couple’s property, which flouted county code and spurred a lawsuit, Lockyer said.

The county has since amended plans to place the tower 30 feet away from the property in conformance with the code. The proposed construction is still in opposition to code, Lockyer said, citing a portion of regulations stating that no new tower can be protrude above the ridge line.

Proponents of the tower say cellular service is inadequate in the Lake Wildwood neighborhood and the lack of coverage presents an economic hardship as well as a public safety issue.

The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

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

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