Ben Mossman: Facts matter — Don’t be a victim of mining fiction
The Union has printed several opinion pieces by Idaho-Maryland Mine Project opponents. The majority of these columns present “information” that’s either biased or misleading and based neither on science nor logic.
Here are the facts. Rise Gold Corp. and its subsidiary, Rise Grass Valley Inc., are American companies incorporated in Nevada. Rise Grass Valley proposes to create more than 600 local jobs by reopening the historic Idaho-Maryland Mine. The mine is projected to employ 312 people at full operation, with two-thirds of these positions projected to be filled by existing local residents.
New local spending of $50 million per year will create an additional 300 indirect jobs in our community and bolster local businesses.
Mining is a heavily regulated industry. The project is undergoing an extensive review by Nevada County in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. Numerous state and federal regulators will be involved during construction and operation, including the California State Water Board, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Conservation, Northern Sierra Air Quality District and Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The Idaho-Maryland Mine, which operated from 1863-1956, is an existing underground mine that has twice been flooded and dewatered. Groundwater continuously seeps into the underground mine, so pumping must occur in order to maintain the mine in a dewatered state.
Recent columns erroneously suggest that groundwater impacts cannot be accurately predicted. Numerous expert hydrogeologists and a century of mining at the Idaho-Maryland say otherwise.
Equally important, the impact of mine dewatering is well understood. Project opponents invent their own conclusions by defining static water level drops as low as one foot as important. These critics ignore the fact that the area’s domestic wells regularly fluctuate by up to 25 feet seasonally and are not influenced by wet or dry years.
The actual conclusion is that no wells would be drained, and only a few wells, located near the Old Brunswick Mine, might be affected by a reduction in water column. In response, Rise has proposed to connect the entire East Bennett neighborhood to NID potable water and pay the water bills for current residents who choose to switch.
The Nevada County General Plan Policy Section 17.12 puts the burden of proof entirely on Rise Grass Valley to guarantee domestic water supply. This guarantee will be fully examined during the exhaustive CEQA process and specified in the project’s conditions of approval.
Groundwater that seeps into the mine has elevated levels of iron and manganese that naturally occur. Groundwater of similar quality is already used by numerous Nevada County residents who are supplied by domestic water wells.
The project proposes to remove this iron and manganese with a conventional water treatment plant before discharging it into the South Fork Wolf Creek.
The project proposes to meet the stringent standards of NPDES permit CAG995002. This permit has criteria for metals content that is as good, or better than, both primary and secondary California drinking water standards. Water temperature and pH are regulated to ensure protection of aquatic life.
Discharged water is continuously tested, reported to and regulated by the California State Water Board. Water used in processing is in a closed circuit and cannot be comingled with discharge water.
Although small in comparison to the current water flows downstream, the mine produces a surplus of very clean water, which benefits downstream users. The water discharge volume, ranging from 1.9 to 5.6 cubic feet per second, is much less than the capacity of 80 cubic feet per second during a “bank full” event for South Fork Wolf Creek. Geomorphic fieldwork and analysis show no significant erosion or sedimentation caused by the proposed water discharge.
Finally, the project proposes to only mine at least 500 feet below surface, except for constructing a new service shaft on our property. We expect this depth will be a condition of project approval. The majority of mining would occur below the existing mine at 1,600 feet or deeper.
Those project opponents will likely continue to claim the sky is falling with every aspect of the Idaho-Maryland Mine project. We’re proud of our environmentally responsible and economically advantageous project that will benefit Nevada County.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” We agree.
Get the facts about the Idaho-Maryland Mine project. Visit our website at http://www.risegrassvalley.com. Also, when the draft EIR document is available, we encourage you to give it a read.
Ben Mossman is president of Rise Grass Valley and CEO of Rise Gold Corp., U.S. corporations.
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