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Bob Clark: Mine a Pandora’s box

I thought the role of county supervisors was to work for the benefits of residents. As I get older I find that I have misunderstood a lot of things. Despite a higher than average IQ, a degree from a major university, and almost 50 years of successful business experience, I am surprised when I find something I have been pretty confident about ends up not being true.

So is the case with the county’s consideration of an application by Rise Gold to reopen the Idaho Maryland Mine.

Since I live around the corner from the Brunswick mine site and will be impacted by a reopening, I have tried to educate myself about the possible reopening. One of the first things I did was to contact Matt Kelly in the county’s planning department and ask him for a copy of the county’s economic impact analysis. (Many of you have found Matt to be a good, responsive resource as I have.) Matt told me that such a study was not required, does not exist, and that none is planned.



Wow.

I’m assuming Rise Gold has considered the costs and benefits to them. For some reason, however, the county hasn’t concluded they should do the same for us.




Knowing that the three most important factors in real estate values are location, location, and location, I wondered what the impact might be on my home value if all of a sudden it was close to an operating mine. Knowing that our local real estate agents do all of the Grass Valley real estate transactions and that they are the foremost experts on Grass Valley real estate, I called the person who does the largest volume of transactions and has for years.

When I asked for their professional assessment of what would happen if the mine reopened, they didn’t hesitate.

“Your home value and that of all your neighbors will drop by $50,000 to $100,00.”

Still in a bit of shock, I called another high volume agent, and another, and another, and another, and another …. They all 100% agreed: Property values would decline. I went online to see if I could find any fact-based study of what actually happened in another case where a mine was opened in a residential area.

After much searching, I found a study done by two PhDs at the University of Minnesota. I called them and they sent me a copy of their study. What they found, based on actual property sales over a nine-year period, was that properties within a one-mile radius of the mine site dropped 20%. But wait, they found that values dropped for up to a 7-mile radius, though less so, as the property was further from the mine site.

That’s all of Grass Valley. Did the county supervisors just not know? I had to tell them, so I did. Just properties within one mile of the Brunswick site could drop tens of millions of dollars. So what did they say?

“That’s just speculation.”

Speculation? This is what our local experts are telling us. Does it matter whether it drops 20%, or 10%, or 5%? Shouldn’t any decline be mitigated, or at least considered? Are my neighbors and I just supposed to swallow hard? Are you?

You may not live next to the mine site, but you’re crazy if you think it won’t impact you.

I know the county is doing an Environmental Impact Report. I also know the Rise-paid “outside experts” will conclude that everything can be mitigated, leaving us to battle them issue by issue. I was told by the county’s legal counsel that the supervisors couldn’t intervene, as “they have to be the unbiased judge and jury.” Doesn’t serving the best interests of residents apply at all?

Shouldn’t the economic impact of any project be required whether there is any required procedure to do so or not? Every business does one. Would Supervisor Dan Miller start building a new store without considering the costs and benefit? I don’t think Dan is that stupid. Don’t most of us consider the cost and impact of a major purchase like buying a car? Of course we do, we’re not that stupid or irresponsible.

What is the role of our county supervisors if not to look out for our best interests? Failure for them to do so only leaves three explanations to me: personal interest, total disregard of their duties, or just plain stupid. Take your choice. Any of them makes them unfit to serve the office we have elected them to serve, and we need to get rid of them.

If we all just sit and let it happen, it will. If it does, I guess I’ll have to tell my family that good old Dad didn’t understand that people don’t really care about their pocketbooks and by the way, your inheritance will be $100,000 or more less than expected.

Are we all that stupid?

Bob Clark lives in Grass Valley.


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