Other Voices: Idaho-Maryland Mine benefits the community
The Idaho-Maryland Mine Project is being permitted in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) and other federal, state and local regulations. The permitting process commenced in April 2005, when the Idaho-Maryland Mining Corporation (IMMC) submitted its application package to the City of Grass Valley to re-open the Idaho-Maryland Mine.
This application was considered as complete by the city on May 24, 2005. Later that year, the city retained the following consultants to assist them in completing the CEQA process for the project: Environmental Science Associates (ESA, to prepare the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)), Ray Krauss and Associates (to oversee the SMARA analysis) and Pacific Municipal Consultants (PMC) to assist city staff.
In 2005, IMMC initiated a community outreach program so that the community could learn about the project. In addition to having booths at local markets and events, IMMC has held six community workshops, two on March 7, 2006, two on August 30, 2006 and two on January 30, 2007, to inform the public about the project, answer questions and concerns raised by the community and to solicit community input into the project. Our meetings and public outreach are separate from the city’s CEQA process.
The city divided the permitting process for the Idaho-Maryland Project into three phases.
The phase one product is called the Master Environmental Assessment (MEA), the phase two product is called the Initial Study (IS) and the phase three product is called the EIR. To date, phases one and two have been completed and phase three is underway.
The city held two public information workshop as part of phase one prior to completing the MEA report in June 2006. The city held two public scoping meetings as part of the IS, which was completed in October 2007.
The city has now commenced phase three of the CEQA process. As part of preparation of the draft EIR, the city scheduled four public information workshops. The first was held on Dec. 12, 2007, and described the geology and hydrology associated with the project. The second meeting was held on Jan. 23, 2008, and addressed water quality, public services and hazardous materials. The third meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13 and will address site reclamation and financial assurances. The fourth meeting is scheduled for March 12 and will address traffic, project alternatives and cumulative impacts.
These are informal progress meetings put on by the city and their consultant ESA (not IMMC) for the purpose of providing information to the public so the project can be understood. The city and ESA have not yet completed analysis of many of the issues related to the project and cannot yet address all the public’s questions at these workshops. However, concerns expressed at the workshops will be addressed as the CEQA process progresses.
A public hearing will be scheduled by the city so that the community can officially comment on the draft EIR which is expected to be released this spring. Written responses to public comments that are provided to the city during that public hearing will become part of the Final EIR that will be considered by the city council for certification. By the time the project gets through the CEQA process, there will have been many opportunities for the public to become informed and express concerns and support for the project.
Both the City and IMMC are making significant efforts to inform and educate the public about the project, the CEQA process and ensure that community concerns are addressed as part of the project design and CEQA process. Both organizations are open to receiving questions and providing information regarding the project independent of the formal meetings that they have held.
Historic mining has left its legacies. However, modern mining practices and today’s environmental standards and laws are far different than what they were even 20 years ago. IMMC is already working to clean up legacy mining issues on the historic mine properties. This includes removal of the old mine buildings and removal of historic underground fuel tanks. As part of the project, IMMC also plans to remediate the historic mine tailings left at the Idaho-Maryland site, similar to the work currently being performed at the Empire State Park.
The community will benefit from IMMC reclaiming a “Brownsfield site” as part of the project that has been idle for over 50 years, at no cost to taxpayers, and eliminate this liability for the city and residents of Grass Valley.
When in operation, the mine will pay a tax of $5 per ounce of gold produced to the Department of Conservation Abandoned Mine Reclamation and Minerals Fund. At full production IMMC could generate $1 million per year for state reclamation activities of historic mine sites. Local environmental groups should be asking the state where these funds will be spent and if the funds are generated in Nevada County, if they will be spent on cleaning up abandoned mines Nevada County.
The mine will generate 400 high-paying jobs, of which over 50 percent are expected to be hired and trained locally. Much of the payroll from these jobs will be spent at local businesses. Goods and services will be purchased locally by both the mine and its employees. Development fees will be paid to the city and taxes will be paid on a federal, state and local level. The economy will be diversified to both a mining and ceramics manufacturing and spin off jobs and opportunities will be generated for the business community and local community.
The current state of the U.S. and California economy, brought on by the mortgage crisis, is going to seriously impact all of us. I urge the community to pull together, focus on completing the CEQA process for the project and move the project ahead for the benefit of the community. At the same time, we need to ensure that environment is protected and the project is one the community can be proud of. All these things are achievable.
David Watkinson is president and COO, Emgold Mining Corp.; president, Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp.; and vice president, Golden Bear Ceramics Co.
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