Noise complaints stem from drill off East Bennett Drive, though Nevada County says it’s in compliance (PHOTO GALLERY/VIDEO)
The low hum rumbles from the East Bennett Road mining site and to the bedroom door of Heidi Zimmerman.
Holding a sound level meter, Zimmerman registers the decibel level of the noise. It jostles up and down the 50s, hitting the low 60s at one point, before Zimmerman closes the door.
“The hard part is, it never stops,” Zimmerman said.
Living across from the Rise Gold Corporation site, Zimmerman no longer sleeps in her bedroom. She has a spot on the other side of her house, far from the noise she says never ends.
Problem is — a decibel level in the 50s is acceptable under Nevada County code around 9 a.m., when Zimmerman registered the noise levels earlier this week. Studies performed by a licensed acoustical engineer show the noise level at the drill falls within an appropriate range. Additionally, Rise Gold constructed a 24-foot wall around its drilling site to dampen the noise from reaching residents.
“Because of the zone of M1 — light industrial — it doesn’t require any type of approval of exploratory drilling, because it’s an allowed use,” said Brian Foss, director of the county’s Planning Department.
The drilling, which began around September, has yielded results, said Benjamin Mossman — CEO, president and director of Rise Gold.
Rise Gold Grass Valley, a subsidiary of Rise Gold Corp., owns the old mine underneath the area, along with some surface property. The drilling has brought samples to the surface from thousands of feet underground. One sample led Mossman to say there could be 64 ounces of gold per ton of rock. He was quick to add that specific sample was their best, and not necessarily indicative of gold levels throughout the area.
“0.2 would be good,” Mossman said of the gold. “Sixty-four is incredibly high.”
Rise Gold next plans to perform drilling in spots closer together. That should enable it to determine how many tons of rock have a certain grade of gold, which translates into possible revenue.
No decision has been made on whether the company will move toward reopening the mine.
“Those mines are known for having very good grades,” Mossman said.
Rise Gold knew people would worry about noise from the drill site.
“Before we even did the drilling, we knew that was a concern,” Mossman said. “We constructed the wall. There’s a lot of work being done on that sound issue before we even started drilling.”
The wall dwarfs anyone standing next to it. Sound from the drill’s engine is easily audible from East Bennett Road. It grows louder quickly when stepping around the wall and facing the drill.
According to Mossman, noise monitors installed at two points near the wall show that he’s staying within county rules.
Noise studies appear to prove that. One study conducted in October by Bollard Acoustical Consultants, Inc., states the drill site was within compliance. Paul Bollard, president of the consulting firm, said a February report has similar findings.
“It’s reducing noise at her residence,” Bollard said of the insulating wall. “And it’s reducing it quite substantially.”
Zimmerman disagrees. She notes that her property is higher than the drill and wall. The noise passes over the 24-foot barrier to reach her bedroom door. She wants noise monitors at her home.
“It gets really tough when you’re not sleeping,” she said.
Bollard said the wall blocks line-of-sight from the drill to Zimmerman’s home. That means noise is reduced.
“Would the levels be louder at her location?” Bollard posed. “Honestly, I don’t think so.”
Mossman said his company paid for new windows at Zimmerman’s home to help dampen the noise. Zimmerman said Rise Gold paid for two windows, one of them a sliding window. However, she said they don’t help the noise when she’s outside or sleeping with an open window.
Foss, the county’s top planner, said the studies show Rise Gold is within noise standards. He said his office has received complaints, though from one person only. He declined to name the person.
Zimmerman isn’t the only one concerned about the noise.
Jim Hall said he lives about a mile away from the drill site and can feel and hear something from underneath his house. However, he hears nothing when stepping outside.
Hall said the noise began in mid-2017.
“My house rumbles on a low frequency,” Hall said. “You feel it as much as you hear it.”
Mossman said it’s impossible someone a mile from the drill site could hear or feel anything.
The Idaho-Maryland Mine was last open for business in 1956, Mossman said. Depending on what the exploratory drilling reveals, he might like to see it in operation again.
Rise Gold bought the property in 2017 from the BET Group for $2 million. Emgold Mining Corp. had leased the site from BET Group before the sale. Mossman said Emgold mined rock for ceramic tiles.
Mossman wants to find gold.
The exploratory drilling currently is in spots widely spaced apart, to determine if veins are continuous. Rise Gold next will drill in areas closer together.
The presence of gold, which existing samples show, isn’t enough to reopen the mine.
Mossman said his company must determine how much revenue it can make. Then it would work out the cost of removing the gold from the ground.
Revenue must be able to repay the cost of opening the mine, an estimated $60 million to $100 million, Mossman said.
Exploratory drilling requires no permit in the light industrial zone. Mossman said reopening the mine would require a use permit from the county as well as compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
It takes any project several months to complete the environmental review process. Rise Gold would have to mitigate any impacts found by that review.
“This is an underground mine that’s accessed by vertical shafts,” Mossman said. “They’re invisible to anyone on the surface. You wouldn’t know it’s there. The surface impacts are quite limited.”
Mossman emphasized that no decision has occurred on seeking the permit necessary to open the mine. He won’t start that until he’s certain it’s worthwhile.
Zimmerman, who’s already filed complaints with county officials about noise from the drill, said she expects the community would balk at reopening the mine.
“My option is to have to move,” she said.
Contact Alan Riquelmy at 530-477-4239 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With another major-impact storm headed our way, Nevada County is preparing for power outages, slick roads and an unpredictable next few days.
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