Jeff Kane: Reviving the Idaho-Maryland Gold Mine — what a deal!
Here’s a conversation I might have had with a guy I met on the street:
Let me tell you about the gold mine we’re planning here in Nevada County.
Yeah, tell me. After all, that’s our history. Are you gonna dip a pan into the South Yuba?
Well, it’s a little bigger than that. We’’l dig for it at the old Idaho-Maryland site.
Oh? How big a dig?
We’ll go underground and remove about 1,500 tons of rock.
Sounds like a lot.
Ahem. Ah, 1,500 tons every day.
Every day? Where will you put it?
We have a 56-acre parcel on Centennial Drive, near your hospital and most of your nursing facilities. We’ll haul 1,000 tons of it every day and pile it there. And pile it and pile it. Eventually the pile will be 70 feet high.
Wow! How will all that rock get from the mine to the pile?
We’ll haul it there with trucks. About 50 to 100 round trips a day.
With your pickup?
Aw, can’t use pickups. Even your Ford F-150 can only carry just under a ton. We’ll use 20-ton diesel trucks, 16 hours a day.
So let’s see. That means if I stand in front of Peaceful Valley Farm Supply I’ll see one of these huge diesels go by about every eight minutes. Won’t that be loud?
Depends what you mean by loud. To us it’s the sound of money.
Uh huh. So what’s in it for us, the people who live here?
Jobs, Dude. You folks could use more employment, and this project means 300 jobs.
I see. By the way, aren’t the mine tunnels full of water?
Hey, you know your stuff. Indeed they are. So we just pump the water out.
How much water?
The first six months we’ll pump out about 3 1/2 million gallons a day.
Won’t that drop the water table and dry up the local private wells?
Nah. Well, it will drop in some areas. If homeowners lose their wells we’ll run NID lines to them. We’e a small outfit, though, so we won’t be able to pay their water bills.
Gee, all that sounds pretty inconvenient. Tell me again what’s in it for us.
Jobs, I told you. A total of 140 jobs.
That water you’ll pump out: isn’t it contaminated with poisons?
So what? We’ll let it sit awhile, like that pond of brown muck that’s been at Empire Mine the past 150 years. And then we’ll drain it off into waterways like the fenced-off stream that runs through Memorial Park.
Hmm. Thinking about all the trucking and tailings, I wonder how our air will be affected.
That’s one reason it’s ideal to mine here. Nevada County’s air is already graded F by the American Lung Association, and your rate of lung disease is twice the state’s average. So a little more pollution won’t make much difference, right?
What about greenhouse gases?
Our operations will produce 9,000 metric tons per year — equivalent to the exhaust of 2,000 cars. That includes about 200,000 minutes of diesel idling. But it’s for a good cause, right?
I guess you’ll be blasting, too.
Yeah, lots of underground blasting. We’ll use ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil). That’s the mixture that destroyed downtown Beirut in 2020. We’ll store up to 14 tons underground, and 30,000 gallons of diesel above ground. Don’t worry. We’ll be careful.
Sounds like you’ll use lots of energy for this operation at a time when Nevada County needs to cut back. We already struggle with shutoffs when PG&E can’t keep up with the demand. Our Environment Action Plan calls for a reduction of 42 gigawatt hours by 2035.
Funny you mention that. We’ll use exactly the amount you want to reduce, which is 12% of Nevada County’s total annual use. It’’l be like adding 5,000 new homes. You do support growth, don’t you?
Well, there’s smart growth and there’s cancer. By the way, what happens to the gold you find?
Why, we haul it off to Canada.
I see. Let me ask you this: how long will your mining project go on?
Um, mff thn dsism.
Ahhh… 80 years. But we promise to clean up when we’re done.
Ha! Show me a mine that’s been cleaned up. And even if you do clean up after 80 years, I won’t be around to see it. And my grandchildren, who have no say in this matter, will have to live their whole lives with your mess and noise and hazards.
Yeah, but think of the employment. A total of 70 jobs!
You know, I’m beginning to think this isn’t such a great idea. Tell me, how much mining has this company done?
Um, mff thn dsism.
Uh, well, actually, none.
And your CEO, what’s his track record?
No worse than gold mining’s history in general. His last company was charged with some environmental violations, but they must not have been so bad since he only had to pay $15,000 in fines. His company had its $420,000 security bond confiscated by Canada’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, and ended in bankruptcy. But we’ll do better. You have my word.
OK, OK, lemme get this straight: Your mining operation will deplete our aquifer, contaminate our waterways, generate intolerable noise, toxify our air, lower property values, parasitize our electricity, decimate our tourist industry, and carry our gold away — all this over 80 years — and in return we get some jobs. And you want us to allow this? Do you think we’re nuts?
I hope so.
Jeff Kane lives in Nevada City.
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