Ralph Silberstein: Idaho-Maryland Mine, again
The Idaho-Maryland Mine was recently acquired from Emgold Mining by Rise Gold Corp., a junior mining company from Canada.
The prior Canadian owner, Emgold Mining, spent years trying to get the mine opened and failed. Due to immense environmental impacts, financial obstacles and public opposition, Emgold eventually abandoned the project.
Repeating the pattern of Emgold, Rise, the new owner, has recently completed some exploratory drilling and has been publishing enticing reports. In a Jan 3, 2018 press release, Rise CEO Ben Mossman stated “The presence of high-grade gold values in the walls of the quartz veins was not expected …” and “The possibility that there could be very substantial gold mineralization in the developed upper levels of the mine is astonishing …”
Except this isn’t astonishing news at all. Rise is excitedly reporting gold deposits in concentrations previously reported in multiple glowing reports by Emgold (e.g Emgold Publication March 2008).
It all sounds so promising, so easy, such a lucrative deal. Multiple alluring reports have been produced yet again. Following the pattern of Emgold, Rise has turned to funding methods that are not approved by the SEC, collecting more than $2 million via “private placements.”
Why didn’t Emgold open the mine? What is going on?
The reality is that the mine is flooded and deposits lie thousands of feet under polluted water.
The mine shut down in 1956 due to low production. In order to get to what gold is left, miles of tunnels have to be dewatered and continuously treated to meet the strict California standards. So a water purification system to handle large volume has to be designed and built. It will have to run forever.
Also, discharging this water means putting South Fork Wolf Creek at flood stage. This creek is a pristine little stream that runs down into the beautiful meadows along Bennett Street. The land is owned by Empire Mine State Park and has been undergoing habitat restoration. Extensive environmental studies will be required to assess the impacts on this habitat before anything can go forward.
There also will have to be studies and guarantees to protect local well owners. Costly water mains and service lines will have to be installed in advance throughout the area to provide a solution for the possibility that the mine would impact these wells.
Even without considering the dewatering issues, it is questionable whether it would be financially feasible to mine the ore that remains at such depths. In California, the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) requires that all mines have a reclamation plan in place before starting. Gone are the days in which a mining company could extract massive amounts of waste rock, leave tailings all over the place, pollute the area with mercury or cyanide or arsenic, and then leave it all when the gold runs out. In order for the mine to get SMARA approval, the area will need a reclamation plan and a huge guarantee bond.
This problem is even larger because the mine property already has vast areas of tailings left over from earlier days which are in need of testing and potential remediation. In a recent EPA study of California abandoned mines to determine their potentials of hazardous exposure, Idaho Maryland Mine is listed as number one! [“Prioritization of California Abandoned Mines Exposure-Based Algorithm” May 9, 2017, Hillenbrand]. Rise Gold now owns this legacy clean-up problem.
And there will be other environmental impacts. The mine is situated at the City of Grass Valley. There will be noise impacts, air pollution impacts, traffic impacts, and energy consumption limitations due to California’s strict new climate change laws. The project will need to have an Environmental Impact Report which must be approved by multiple agencies. It is well known that the local environmental community will not stand for anything other than full and careful scrutiny.
The executives at Rise undoubtably know all this, but make little mention of these huge obstacles. CEO Ben Mossman recently spoke at a mining conference as if the permitting would be easy, with “only county approval needed,” failing to mention a reality that paints an entirely different picture. But, in one sense, Mossman is right.
Idaho-Maryland Mine is still a very productive gold mine. Only instead of mining for gold, it is again being used to mine unwary investors: in the last year alone Rise has collected over $2 million in investment cash.
Ralph Silberstein lives in Grass Valley and is a member of Community Environmental Advocates (CEA-NC.org).
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