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Pat McKim: The rest of the Rise story

Other Voices
Pat McKim

Recently visiting Rise Gold CEO Ben Mossman, I read Denise Bellas’ guest column. Since I’m one Ben “enticed” to invest, I’d like to offer “the rest of the story.”

I’m a proud third generation Californian and lived most of my life in Northern California. Despite California’s unfriendliness to dirty jobs, I was intrigued by the Idaho-Maryland’s history of proven production results after restarts that indicate a rich future AND a clean past. It’s exciting to bring back to life an honorable part of history and see it again benefit a local community that needs it.

My time outside Northern California includes much of a 34-year Navy career that started at the U.S. Naval Academy. There I lived an uncompromising Honor Concept to not lie, cheat or steal. Violation meant separation. Character is unique because only we control our honor during our life. At this stage in mine I’ve no need or desire to associate with anything untoward. Nor do I want to stand by and see a good person maligned as “unethical” with no cause. That’s how “ethics” are “weaponized.”

As in any significant investment, I did substantial due diligence before investing in Rise. Research included looking at relevant past history. My positive impression of Rise and Ben has changed since then: it’s improved! There’s no firm guarantees in life, as current economics show, but past performance of Ben and the mine indicate this team should stay upright in the community.

Ms. Bellas wants Ben and Rise separated from the Idaho-Maryland mine for imagined “unethical” behavior. At the Academy such accusations would require face-to-face board with evidence. That dog won’t hunt.

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Briefly Ben’s two $7,500 fines resulted from bureaucratic misinformation and error, not ethical lapse. Had Ms. Bellas been truly interested, she’d have asked Ben directly like I did. I don’t sense a hint of dishonesty or evasiveness in Ben: nothing in him resembles her snake-oil salesman imagery. He’s an honest, thoughtful, soft-spoken but direct engineer. From decades in technology I learned that if you want the truth, ask an engineer. If you want BS ask a marketeer.

Something else surprised me about Ms. Bellas’ letter. Idaho-Maryland has a long, rich history that’s well documented, including local Gage McKinney’s book “MacBoyle’s Gold.” It weaves Errol MacBoyle’s true tale of a newcomer from Oakland by way of Cal’s mining school. He perseveres to restart Idaho-Maryland. Rapidly it becomes the U.S. No. 2 producing mine. Another of McKinney’s books “The 1930s: No Depression Here” shows how Grass Valley and Nevada City uniquely thrived during the Great Depression from mine employment. Miners could buy cars and homes while the rest of the country sank into poverty. Sadly, the U.S. government shut it down for World War II; economic decline quickly followed.

A key at this mine: Despite NO environmental regulations at the time and rudimentary technology compared to today, the mine’s tailings, or byproducts, introduced no pollutants to speak of and created no toxic legacy. Despite her “interest” in a clean Wolf Creek, Ms. Bellas showed no curiosity to delve into this history before her accusations. Is this a war on pollution or a “War on Work” as Bay Area TV host Mike Rowe observed in a 2008 TED talk? There’s no reason there can’t be both: clean environment WITH “dirty” jobs.

Gold ore is trapped in benign rock at Rise. The byproduct is sand that won’t be released into Wolf Creek but used in other productive applications. I’m sure Ben will be happy to discuss relevant processes and environmental oversight for those interested.

The world’s in severe recession; debt’s at all-time highs; unemployment’s approaching Great Depression levels. Our time is remarkably similar to MacBoyle’s as he restarted the mine. It saved Grass Valley in the Depression; it should help today. Gold performs well in hard times. Revenues should rise. When restarted, Rise will employ hundreds of workers paid many times current Grass Valley wage levels.

I hope residents will take the time to meet Ben and decide for themselves Rise’s value to the community. Mark Twain covered this industry and prospered from it. He said history rhymes. Will Grass Valley allow the next verse?

Pat McKim lives in Walnut Creek.


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