Our View: Mining for public comment | TheUnion.com

Our View: Mining for public comment

Who’s really going to read the 1,070-page pdf of the draft environmental impact report for the Idaho-Maryland Mine?

There will be a few, for sure. The diehards, those whose jobs revolve around the environment, and, of course, the people who run the Idaho-Maryland Mine.

The rest of us? That’s a tall order. Real life gets in the way. This is why we have elected officials, isn’t it? They’re the ones who must deal with the minutiae. We’ve still got snow to shovel.

This is typically true of the multitude of items that cross the desks of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars allocated and spent, and most of us will never know where it went.

That’s not the case with the Idaho-Maryland Mine.

The mine is the issue of 2022. It’s the emotionally charged agenda item that will keep people returning for public comment.

The Idaho-Maryland Mine is the new cannabis.

The draft EIR is an essential document required if the mine is to be reopened. Awaited for several months, it’s required for any project of a certain size.

And the mine certainly qualifies.

In short, the EIR digs into environmental issues a reopened mine could affect, like aesthetics, noise and traffic. It also offers mitigation measures, or ways to lessen those impacts.

And in some cases, there are impacts that are “significant and unavoidable,” no matter what is done.

Everyone isn’t going to read an entire 1,070-page pdf, but certain areas provide key points for those interested to pinpoint and peruse.

Search the document, read the parts you’re invested in, and strengthen your opinion. Or maybe even change it. Stranger things have happened.

Backing up an opinion on the mine with evidence is good. Acting on your thoughts is better. That’s what the draft EIR process gives us — 60 days to submit public comment, and a Feb. 23 meeting of the Nevada County Planning Commission on the adequacy of the document.

Plastering Facebook with opinions about the mine blows off steam, but accomplishes nothing of substance. Each one of us can impact the impact report by submitting formal comments about it.

That’s the opinion everyone should share — that we all get a voice in this process.

You can mail your thoughts to Matt Kelley, senior planner with the Nevada County Planning Department, at 950 Maidu Ave., Suite 170, Nevada City, CA 95959-7902; or email them to Idaho.MMEIR@co.nevada.ca.us.

The proposed reopening of this mine is a huge development for this county, and your input isn’t just wanted, it’s needed.

Take the water from down deep the mine plans to discharge into Wolf Creek. Toxic disaster in the making? Water one could drink?

According to the draft EIR, recent groundwater samplings showed “two constituents of concern, iron and manganese,” above water quality board discharge standards. Additionally, low concentrations of arsenic and ammonia have been detected. These would have to be reduced or removed through a proposed water treatment plant.

“Based on current groundwater quality conditions, this level of treatment is sufficient to meet state discharge standards,” the draft EIR states. The standard is potable. That’s what the mine must meet in order to operate.

Treated water would be monitored at a spot decided by the state before it’s discharged into Wolf Creek. But monitored by whom? The mine would be required to submit reports four times a year showing it’s compliant.

This provides little comfort to the people near the mine, though more nuanced evaluation is called for here than some of the wilder claims we’ve heard over the past few years might suggest.

But what of the mine owner’s concerns? Should the community care for Rise Gold, which has been cast in the role of the villain by many?

What about its right to use the property in a way that’s allowed by law? The Idaho-Maryland Mine was a working mine. People then built homes around it. They understandably oppose a mine that closed in the 1950s resuming operations.

Who should win this argument, the property that came first or the homeowners who have invested their lives into this community? Or is there a compromise?

This process is still in its infancy. There are many more steps to go, with much more opportunity to have your voice heard.

However, that’s no reason to wait. All of us have the chance now, during this stage, to speak.

So, gather what facts you can, learn more as they become available, and submit your comments.

As for that pdf, well, it’s not going anywhere. And if you are going to form a case for or against, it might be a good idea to understand at least some of the facts and data contained in those pages.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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