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Martin Webb: Analyzing the Idaho-Maryland Fudge Factory

Martin Webb | Other Voices

As a long-time energy professional, local business owner and radio broadcaster of The Energy Report, I was asked to speak to a group about the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine on the subject of energy use.

I analyzed multiple sources of information, including reports either paid for, created by or referenced by the mine’s investors, as well as our own Nevada County Energy Action Plan.

As a result, I was able to deep dive into claims of estimated jobs and earnings for locals, while also taking a look at overall energy use for the proposed facility. I was surprised.

First, note that any estimated local jobs are always based on the proposed mine operating at a “maximum production rate” of 2 million pounds/day. However, Rise Gold acknowledges it’s a made-up theoretical number not based on any technical feasibility report and would take an unknown number of years to reach, if ever.

Out of the estimated direct mine jobs, only two-thirds would go to locals, and the highest paying category (19 supervisors and managers) would employ zero locals, as well as the next four highest-paying jobs (geologist, engineer, metallurgist, and scientist). A “local’s average job” at the mine would pay less than the mine’s regularly touted “average job” earnings.

The mine would necessitate moving in 100 new non-locals to compete for tight housing, generally making more money than their local co-workers.

There is also sweet talk about indirect jobs created, which is the assumed outward ripple effect of even more new jobs and revenue created by the spending of the mine’s proposed operations, as well as by the personal spending of people working for the mine. This is where things go sideways in the mine’s reports.

Their economic report bizarrely calls PG&E a local utility, then assigns all $8 million a year in power bills paid as going into our community, and somehow magically compounds that huge mistake into $13 million in total local economic effects. After you correct their blunder to reflect reality, “local vendor purchases” drops from the report’s false “41% of the mine’s total spending” to only 15%.

Yes, 85% of vendor spending will go elsewhere. The local indirect jobs numbers collapse.

Well, so what? The mine won’t employ as many local people as they say. And they wouldn’t pay them as well. And they don’t know how much they could mine, having done no technical feasibility study, so there could be few jobs. And their reports don’t make sense, using flawed information and admitted guesswork.

Still, wouldn’t even 10 new jobs be worth it versus zero new jobs? It turns out, no.

Using the mine’s repeated citation of a 2019 Economic Policy Institute report on job multipliers for 179 different industries, mining is practically the worst possible job creator, both in direct jobs at the mine, and indirect jobs around it. Literally, almost any other business model would be better, if jobs are what we want in our community.

We have a choice, and in the 21st century we’ve done well without mining. When I looked at the proposed mine’s power use, it would equal all of the entire non-residential power use combined in the county: roughly 50 million kWh/yr. For that same annual amount of mine power (which if used, would destroy our local energy action plan), our county’s very smart and resilient citizens already employ over 30,000 locally, creating $3 billion in local earnings … using 50 million kWh.

The proposed mine — for that same gargantuan annual power use — would provide at most a paltry 1% of the jobs and earnings (300 jobs and $30 million) that our local citizens already do, using the ample gold reserves currently buried between our ears.

Visit Rise Gold’s website. Locate their jobs information. Find the numerous footnote links to the Economic Policy Institute brief on jobs multipliers from 2019. They love touting it. Notice we have much better industries to choose from, providing far greater local jobs numbers with less risk and more certainty, and without exploding our county’s energy action plan.

My recommendation? I myself am a three-time local solar business owner who has created dozens of local jobs. Then those jobs saved our citizens and businesses more money, with roughly around $2 million a year staying here in our county instead of going to PG&E, all from my hard work.

And that’s just me. There are currently over a hundred solar and energy jobs locally. And we’ll need many more to hit the county energy action plan … but only a handful of local mine jobs to explode it.

Martin Webb lives in Penn Valley.



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