Debate worth its weight
A group of former hardrock gold miners think local environmentalists are clouding the issue of reopening the Idaho-Maryland mine and vehemently disagree that it would be bad for the community.
In fact, the miners and members of the Sierra Nevada Mining and Industry Council of Grass Valley think reopening the famous gold mine in Grass Valley would be a boom to the local economy and provide needed jobs to young people.
“I want to see them do something, said George Nelson, referring to plans to reopen the mine. “A working kid is a happy kid, and an all-retired population is not worth much.”
Nelson, 87, cut timbers that shored up the wall of local mines.
“There’s a lot of unemployment, and we need to put the people to work.” added George Pratti, 91, who worked in the mines in the ’30s and is a 40-year hardrock veteran miner.
Reopening the mine could bring 400 new jobs to the area, observed Jack Clark, 87, the former safety officer at the mine who saw it close in 1956.
“The high school kids who don’t go to college could stay and get jobs – now they have to move from here,” he said.
Clark wrote a book about the history of the mine, “Gold in Quartz,” which was published three years ago. His father’s family arrived here in 1863 and his mother’s grandfather came across the plains with a wagon train.
“Gold mining was a God-send to this area,” Clark said. “The Miners Foundry wouldn’t be here” if it weren’t for mining.
“Mining is just as safe as it was before,” he added. “Very few were killed and now they more regulations than when I was there.”
The miners also drank the water in the mine because it was cool and it didn’t perceivably hurt them, Clark said.
During the mid-thirties, Leonard Bednorz, now 89, worked in the mines during his summer vacations from school and would like to see that happen again.
“When you grew up here you went to the mines, because it was the heart throb of the community,” Bednorz said.
The area’s mines have survived earthquakes and are considered safe by miners because of the hard-rock’s rigidity, but some are tough to convince, Bednorz said.
“With environmentalists, it’s hard to confuse them with facts,” Bednorz said. “Their minds are already made up.”
“Grass Valley knew no Depression,” said Bob Wilder, 77, whose father worked in the Empire Mine. “When you needed to buy a kid a new pair of shoes, you could.”
In the old days, the miners made about $4 to $6 a day.
“Now they make $40 and $50 an hour,” Wilder said, in Nevada, Alaska and Southern California mines.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4237.
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