Archive for November, 2009

union_110409The Union’s front-page today features an article, “Who’s Blowing Smoke?”, about CLAIM-GV’s photographic rendering of the impact of the Idaho-Maryland Mine — should it re-open — on the Grass Valley skyline.

The article includes — finally for The Union! — a discussion of Dunn Capital Partners’ recent press release containing severe criticisms of the environmental impact the mine would have on the region.

The article also includes comments from Ralph Silberstein and Bob Bogart from CLAIM-GV:

Ralph Silberstein and Bob Bogart of CLAIM-GV said the high plumes would be caused by the extreme force with which the mine would push steam out of the ceramics plant. They base their rendition on the Claim-GV Web site on the environmental report, which indicates the six short stacks would put out 4,400 cubic feet of steam per minute at almost 1,300 degrees.

Silberstein said the drawing shows the steam going into downtown Grass Valley, but “it blows in several directions there,” and could have been shown in any direction.

“Their rendition doesn’t show a headframe or any tailings” from a working mine, Silberstein added.

Both Silberstein and Bogart also said Idaho-Maryland officials haven’t been honest in disclosing financial details, or the reason behind a recent collapse of a potential project funding source.


The mine executive also cited a 2006 survey done by the city which indicated that 72 percent of the respondents favored the mine’s reopening. Claim-GV contends the survey was done before any major impacts were known from the environmental report.

See also:

In the War of Words with Emgold, Dunn Gets the Environmental Impacts Right

Grass Valley Skyline if Idaho-Maryland Re-Opens

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The first fifteen minutes or so of this fascinating video, produced by jmdigitalstudio.com, is a tour of the Sixteen to One Mine.

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time_coverIf you’d like a brief — maybe even a lasting — respite from your recession woes, read the ultimate California booster article, the cover story of Time Magazine’s November 2nd edition, “Why California Is Still America’s Future.”

Here’s how it begins:

California, you may have heard, is an apocalyptic mess of raging wildfires, soaring unemployment, mass foreclosures and political paralysis. It’s dysfunctional. It’s ungovernable. Its bond rating is barely above junk. It’s so broke, it had to hand out IOUs while its leaders debated how many prisoners to release and parks to close. Nevada aired ads mocking California’s business climate to lure its entrepreneurs. The media portray California as a noir fantasyland of overcrowded schools, perpetual droughts, celebrity breakdowns, illegal immigration, hellish congestion and general malaise, captured in headlines like “Meltdown on the Ocean” and “California’s Wipeout Economy” and “Will California Become America’s First Failed State?”

Actually, it won’t.

Ignore the California whinery. It’s still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering megastate that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency, health clubs, Google searches, Craigslist, iPhones and the Hollywood vision of success is still the cutting edge of the American future — economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally and maybe politically. It’s the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It’s also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech. In 2008, California’s wipeout economy attracted more venture capital than the rest of the nation combined. Somehow its supposedly hostile business climate has nurtured Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Cisco, Intel, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, the Gap and countless other companies that drive the way we live.

The article says that if California were a country, it would be in the G8. Among the top ten countries of the world, it would place eighth with its GDP of $1.8 trillion.

“I see my own pattern repeated again and again — people who want to invent the future and aren’t afraid to fail,” says billionaire Silicon Valley financier Vinod Khosla, an Indian immigrant who helped found Sun Microsystems and recently unveiled a $1.1 billion venture fund for investments in clean technology.

Which just happens to be the next California gold rush.

We live in a California Sierra foothill community — Grass Valley, with an unemployment rate already above 10% — that desperately needs to understand this new reality.

A Canadian gold mining venture, Emgold Corporation, has applied to the city of Grass Valley to re-open the old Idaho-Maryland Mine near the heart of the downtown area, and is promising hundreds of jobs.

Many old-timers point to the pivotal role that some 40 operating mines played in making this a boom region during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and believe irrationally that re-opening a single mine now will somehow rescue us again, despite compelling research debunking the promise of 400 jobs.

Neither mine jobs nor green jobs will save us from the recession, but eventually the recession will run its course. And, when it does, the new reality so fulsomely described in the latest Time cover story will dominate the economic landscape of California and the nation, but especially California.

It isn’t merely that we ought to plan for the long-term.

The truth is … that’s all we can do.

The only question is whether we’ll do it intelligently and in synch with the inevitable green and sustainable future, or whether we’ll disastrously foreclose that future by a foolish effort to turn back the clock to our nineteenth century gold-mining past. The nineteenth century ended for Nevada County in the 1950s, with the closure of the last mine.

Again, from the Time article:

If you think solar is an eco-fantasy, you probably don’t live in California, where rooftop installations have doubled for two years in a row, to 50,000, heading to the state goal of 1 million by 2017. The San Francisco utility Pacific Gas & Electric, which recently bolted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over climate policy, has 40% of the nation’s solar roofs in its territory. SunPower now has more than 5,000 employees. It’s building massive power plants for utilities, as well as roof panels for big-box stores, complete subdivisions and individual homes. Prices are plummeting, and competition is fierce, most of it from California firms like BrightSource, Solar City, eSolar, Nanosolar and Solyndra. “The scramble is on, and California is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the country,” says Dinwoodie. “That’s true of all energy issues.”

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The following is an accurate photographic projection, a photograph edited to reflect the likely appearance of the Grass Valley skyline if the Idaho-Maryland Mine were to reopen and go into full operation.

It was done by researchers for the local group, “Citizens Looking at the Impact of Mining” (CLAIM-GV), in consultation with officials in Grass Valley government, taking careful consideration of issues such as water content of the smoke and steam, typical wind direction and other elements of the local microclimate.

Despite — or more likely because of — the care taken to make it as accurate a projection as possible, this image, mounted on a poster and displayed for the past several months at the weekly Nevada City Grower’s Market, caused quite a stir, no doubt because it came as a shock to many citizens who had not realized the significant impact the mine would have on the local environment.

Click on image to see larger view


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by Jane Pelton

In a recent press release, the President and CEO of Emgold Mining Corporation, David Watkinson, complained that an earlier press release issued by Dunn Capital Partners explaining Dunn’s decision to end funding talks with Emgold contained a “concoction of falsehoods”.

However, all of Dunn’s assertions regarding the environmental impacts are true:

IMM’s impact to an urban location – true
The risk of water loss to local wells – true
Surface Mining and Reclamation Act and hydrologist reports – true
Inadequate support documents to prove the adherence to CEQA – true
Citizen petitions against the mine – also true

Other detrimental impacts not mentioned in Dunn’s press release are well documented in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), including significantly increased air pollution and truck traffic, noise pollution, huge energy consumption, and the very real risk of water pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency Toxic Release Inventory, hard rock metal mining has been the #1 polluter in America for the past nine years in a row, ever since reporting has been required. Further, a 2006 study reveals that “Despite assurances from government regulators and mine proponents that mines would not pollute clean water, researchers found that 76 percent of studied mines exceeded (failed) water quality standards, polluting rivers, and groundwater with toxic contaminants, such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cyanide, and exposing taxpayers to huge cleanup liabilities.”

The public comments on the DEIR for the Idaho Maryland Mine project include critical comments from some of the very governmental agencies that would be tasked with permitting the project if it is approved by the Grass Valley City Council.

Mr. Watkinson asserts that the “project is in fact well supported in the local community,” referring to a telephone survey commissioned by the City of Grass Valley in early 2006, almost three years prior to the release of the DEIR.

In fact, the survey focused on attitudes toward quality of life, perceptions of City government services, proposals to improve conditions in Grass Valley, and planning for future growth. Only one of the 31 questions dealt with the Idaho-Maryland Mine, as follows: “Provided that appropriate environmental safeguards are in place (would you support) allowing the Idaho Maryland gold mine to reopen?” The DEIR, which was published much later, in the fall of 2008, clearly shows that environmental safeguards are not in place, and that there are serious questions about the viability of this project within 1 ½ miles of downtown, a hospital, parks, trails and schools, and surrounded by homes and businesses on all sides.

It is significant that only 338 people responded to the survey (less than 3% out of a total population of approximately 12,000). The survey does not reveal how many of those few respondents own residential property near the mine site. It is interesting that traffic congestion topped the list of concerns and that, when asked what they liked most about living in Grass Valley, many pointed to the area’s scenic beauty, peace, and serenity.

There may be a legitimate dispute between Emgold and Dunn Capital Partners about who broke up with whom, but who cares? The real issue of critical importance for residents of Nevada County is whether to allow the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine for hard rock mining, which would transform Grass Valley into a dirty, noisy factory town and, with the probable loss of high tech industry and tourism resulting from this change, into a rural backwater.

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