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Plan for gold mine emerging

In the 1850s, miners could claim a stretch of creek and its gold simply by setting up camp. These days, however, striking gold isn’t as easy, as the Grass Valley Development Review Commission on Wednesday reminded those who hope to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine.

Canadian-based Emgold Mining Corporation will need to secure approvals from at least 13 state agencies and complete a slew of studies on traffic, noise, water, trees, lighting and other effects of the operation before the company could reopen the Idaho-Maryland.

The amount of review is appropriate for the biggest project to come before the city in nine years, city Planning Commissioner Lisa Swarthout said.



“It’s a big project and a scary project for a lot of us,” Swarthout said.

“We realize this is a big project, and people need time to digest it,” said Emgold President and CEO Bill Witte.




He said the company is in the “very preliminary” steps of the project, which could include a ceramic production site to convert excavated earth into profit. The proposed mining and ceramic operation would encompass four sites with more than 140 acres and 400 employees.

The main mine and ceramic plant would be located at the site of a former milling plant south of Idaho-Maryland Road off Centennial Drive. Emergency access and ventilation to the 72 miles of underground tunnels would be available at the southwest corner of the Idaho-Maryland/ Brunswick Road intersection and south of the Colfax Highway near Brunswick Road.

Before it could begin mining, Emgold would need to pump out the water that has accumulated in the tunnels. Emgold planned to “dewater” the mine in 1996, but a sharp drop in the price of gold forced the investor-financed company to rethink its plans.

This time, Emgold is lessening its reliance on the notoriously mercurial gold market by including the 152,000-square-foot ceramics plant on site.

Using patented technology called Ceramext, the plant would convert rocks and mine tailings into concrete tiles, bricks and other construction materials.

Witte declined Wednesday to estimate when the mine could be operational, but in May, he said the mine could open in 2007. The project is expected to appear before the Planning Commission and the City Council in an introductory meeting before the end of the year.

The company is also considering developing housing on its property north of Bennett Road.


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