Jeff Ackerman: There they go again, but not very far when it comes to mining
If history repeats — and it generally does — we’ll probably spend a good chunk of 2020 reading and hearing about meetings and studies and promises and permits relating to the most recent bid to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine.
Spoiler Alert: Hard rock mining in Nevada County, or most anywhere else in California, is as dead as a Senate impeachment conviction.
The Union archives are filled with stories from the last time someone tried to reopen the mine. And the time before that and the time before that. I suspect the newsroom might simply change the dates and names this time around, since the debate will be fairly predictable.
The difference this time is the anti-mining sentiment, or, better stated, the concerns with climate change. A recent poll among California Democrats found that climate change is the number one concern, outpacing health care almost 2 to 1.
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That’s important because Democrats run things in California. And if they fail to stop mining, the courts will likely hold things up until most of us are too old to remember what we were waiting for.
At a time when we’ve already targeted farting cows, straws and grocery bags, pushing an industry associated with terms like “acid” and “cyanide” will be a hard sell. Especially when the guys selling it are from Canada.
I know … we don’t need a bunch of know-it-all Canadians telling us where to dump our contaminated mine water.
Rise Gold Corp is headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. It’s had some decent success convincing investors that there is “gold in them thar hills,” pointing south to the hills where the Idaho-Maryland Mine is located, which is also home to a couple of thousand neighbors who weren’t there the last time the mine was being gouged for gold.
Last I checked the company stock was trading at less than 70 cents per share. According to its website, Rise Gold was “focused on generating shareholder value through advancing a gold project in California.” They reportedly raised $2.4 million in three months.
Investors are licking their chops at the prospect that the Idaho-Maryland Mine still has more than a half million ounces of gold trapped inside its water-filled shafts and with gold selling for some $1,500 per ounce, that’s … math is hard … enough money to buy a hockey team.
In a column last year for an online mining industry newsletter called “The Critical Investor,” some guy (he doesn’t give a name) who was probably paid to promote Rise Gold touted the opportunity to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine.
He points to the Trump election as evidence that mining in California will fare much better than it did under Obama.
“California didn’t exactly build the best reputation as a mining friendly jurisdiction over the years, caused predominantly by permitting issues,” wrote the Critical Investor. He goes on to remind us that, “a lot has changed since Trump took over, as he is pro mining and anti-permitting.”
I’d like to believe Trump has a pretty full plate these days. Between launching missiles, midnight tweet fests, golf, impeachment hearings and an upcoming election, there’s a good chance he won’t be much help to the Canadians hoping for a mining permit.
The Critical Investor says Rise Gold may not need to play its “Trump Card,” or even deal with California state agencies because the mine is on private land.
“Nevada County, not the state, is the lead agency,” he wrote, noting that the mine would not need permission from the BLM, or U.S. Forest Service.
That, according to the Critical Investor, makes the investment risk, “manageable.”
The Critical Investor doesn’t know Nevada County. Nothing much happens in Nevada County unless there have been at least 1,000 town hall meetings and 2.5 million pages of studies, reports and surveys. And that’s just for a stoplight.
The Nevada City Council has been debating 5G wireless telecom regulations so long that 5G is now obsolete, replaced by 7F, which is 10 times faster than the speed of light and better for your complexion.
There are other reasons prior efforts to reopen the mine have failed. The largest is water. The miles of mine shaft are filled with water that is likely contaminated. In order to get the gold, they need to get rid of the water and nobody really has much use for contaminated water.
Even if they could drain the shafts without poisoning the waterways between Nevada County and the Pacific Ocean, it would be difficult to get past the hammering, truck traffic and other distractions neighbors would be impacted by. Not sure I’d want my half-million-dollar home in the foothills next door to an operating gold mine.
And those homes belong to Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Independents and one or two “Declined To States.” Quick show of hands. Who wants to live near a working gold mine?
That’s what I thought.
It’s like asking who wants to live near an airport, garbage dump or prison. Even if the county granted a permit, there would be 100 lawyers lined up with petitions to stop it, or at least delay it long enough to sink Rise Gold.
None of this means the latest effort to reopen the gold mine won’t make for some good coffee talk. We all knew how the Titanic movie would end, but still bought tickets.
Jeff Ackerman is a former publisher of The Union. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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