Don Rivenes: Reopening mine solves no priorities
Recently a poll conducted on behalf of Rise Gold asked the respondents what were their top three priorities for the government? The highest three answers were: keeping our community safe from wildfire 40.6%, fixing homelessness 33.0%, and helping to ensure housing remains affordable for locals 28.8%.
Creating and running a gold mine is the opposite of keeping the community safe from wildfire. Given our current drought and forest conditions, it is smart for the county to concentrate on safety protections and ways to reduce its electric grid usage to limit the need for large transmission and distribution lines. Operating the mine will nearly wipe out the energy savings projected from actions under the recently passed Nevada County Energy Action Plan. It also would use the electricity equivalent of 5,500 homes.
A re-opened gold mine would appear to have no effect on fixing homelessness, except to divert attention from the issue.
The Nevada County Housing Element had a 2014-2019 allocation of 300 very or low income housing from the Regional Housing Authority of which 147 were actually provided. The new plan calls for 842 very-low or low income housing. Given past performance it appears the County should concentrate its efforts on meeting the regional goals. The only effect the opening of the mine would have on affordable housing might be to lower the real estate values of the housing near the mine or again to divert attention from the County housing problems.
It is interesting that the survey in question one had only two choices for the environment — water/drought and environmental issues. And for question two, clean air and clean water and the environment were the only environmental choices. The words — climate change — were nowhere mentioned, even though it is covered extensively in the Nevada County Energy Action Plan.
Question three of the survey was: Would you be willing to consider supporting a new mining operation in Nevada County if it provided [name the three services respondent identifies in question two] to your community?
I suppose if I had taken the survey, and my top three personal choices were clean air, clean water, and fire safety, then I would have answered yes to question three. Unfortunately opening the mine will have an opposite effect on those issues. How running a gold mine would improve the air and water quality and stop a fire is beyond my understanding. Projected respiratory impacts of the mine could exacerbate heart and lung disease in Nevada County whose residents already must adapt to the particulates associated with a long wildfire season.
Nevada County should be talking to the Rise Gold Company on how to make better use of its land to benefit themselves and the county. Cleaning up the Centennial site is an admirable undertaking. After cleanup, a business with some housing would work just fine there. The Brunswick site could include a green waste facility, such as recently run by the Fire Safe Council. It could feed a small biomass plant. This would keep our waste locally in the county instead of shipping it out. Each of these investments would be considered sustainable providing good jobs for the county.
Calls have begun for a global ban of the unnecessary mining of certain metals such as gold, since by 2020 there was enough gold in vaults and national reserves to meet global demand in perpetuity without extracting another ounce from the ground. More than 90% of gold was mined exclusively for luxury and financial markets, whereas less than 10% went toward industry and technology applications.
Gold price is currently $1,700 per ounce. Since only 10% of gold is of use to industry, the real value price is $170 per ounce. Thus the production and environmental costs of Rise Gold mining far exceeds the value produced for society.
As for job creation, many of these jobs will be filled by people out of the county and some temporary. Only 9% of fulltime workers in the mining industry are women according to a survey by the NSW Minerals Council. Can’t the county find a better way to meet its job needs?
In conclusion, stop wasting time on a project that has little real value and does not meet Nevada County needs. Nevada County should concentrate on protecting its current residents and environment, by meeting its citizen’s priorities as brought out by the survey, fulfilling its Energy Action Plan goals, and not gamble that this mine would provide the jobs it claims will appear.
Don Rivenes is a member of Nevada County Climate Action Now NCCAN. He lives in Grass Valley.
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