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Archive for March, 2011

Ms. Rosy Scenario has enjoyed a successful career for the last 20 years as a PR consultant for penny stock gold exploration companies. Before that, she worked in Eastern Europe, where she was instrumental in getting buy-in for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Minetalk caught up with her in her office at Crown Point Circle

Mine Talk:  Good afternoon, Ms. Scenario.

Scenario:   You can call me Rosy.

Mine Talk: Rosy, before we start, I have to ask: Are you related to W. Case Scenario, who argued in favor of earthquake safety measures for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant?

Rosy: Yes.  He’s my cousin, but a real pessimist. We disagree on everything.

MT: Rosy, with regard to the Idaho Maryland Mine project, what can you tell us about the effect on our underground water supply from constantly pumping water out of the mining tunnels into Wolf Creek, and what can we learn from the disastrous San Juan Ridge Mine that operated for only a few years in the 90’s?

Rosy: I’m so glad you asked. Of course, some private wells will be sucked dry, perhaps as far as Colfax, but not to worry. The City will provide ditch water to homes around the mine site.

MT: You’ve said that the water pumped from the mine tunnels will be treated before it’s released into Wolf Creek.  How will it be treated, and to what standard?

Rosy: We’re working on a plan for that.

MT: You’ve said that this mine project could create 400 jobs. Where does that number come from, and would these workers be hired from within our local community?

Rosy: Although the last time a major mine operated in this area was in the 1950s, there still must be plenty of people in the local community who have all the latest 21st-century mining skills needed for this work.  Or, we could bring them in from Nevada.

MT: Some critics have suggested that re-opening the mine will result in a net job loss to the community, when you take into account the high-tech businesses that will move out, and those that will not want to move here. How do you respond to that?

Rosy: Mining saved Grass Valley during the Great Depression without any high-tech industries.

MT: But during the Great Depression, mining represented about 16% of the workforce. Today it would be less than half a percent.

Rosy: Well, to paraphrase Margaret Mead, never underestimate what a few committed people can accomplish.

MT: The mine plans to dig up a whole lot of rock to crush and treat with toxic chemicals – 20 or more tons for every ounce of gold recovered.  Some mining engineers suggest that there may not be more than one year’s worth of gold left in the mine. How can you be so confident that there’s enough for 20 years of operation?

Rosy:  Just ask our investors! Some of them are still with us after 20 years without a single ounce of gold to show for it so far. Besides, our resource estimates are inferred, not proven.

MT: The Editor/Publisher of our local newspaper recently wrote a very compelling op-ed in which he argued in favor of considering the worst-case scenario before proceeding with any large project like this. What would you say to him?

Rosy: I’d say this: California environmental regulations are so strict that nothing bad can possibly happen.

MT: What about diminished air quality?  The Draft Environmental Impact Review (DEIR) lists 10 different acute, chronic, and/or carcinogenic toxic air contaminants, including 20 million tons of CO2 over the life of the project.  And the project would emit more than 9 times the ‘significant level’ of nitrogen oxides every day.

Rosy: Nevada County is already among the 12 worst counties in the U.S. for air quality.  How can 220 twenty-ton diesel truck trips through town every day make it worse?

MT: What about the possibility of road accidents involving mine trucks carrying sodium cyanide, explosives, and other hazardous chemicals on City streets and on Highway 49?  And, what about the use and storage of cyanide and explosives at the site? What is your plan for preventing accidents, theft, leaks, and spills?

Rosy: The mining industry is heavily regulated.  We’ll have policy manuals on shelves in the office.  Therefore, there won’t be any accidents.  Grass Valley is completely safe, unless something bad happens.

MT: What about this tile factory?  Can the tile factory accommodate 1200 to 2400 tons of tailings every day? And what if it turns out that there just isn’t a market for tiles made of melted mine waste?

Rosy.  Well, we hope there’s a market.  It seems like such a good idea.

MT:  What if the Grass Valley economy suffers as tourists, retirees and young families flee the town due to the presence of a dirty industrial hard rock gold mine and tile factory within city limits?

Rosy:  You sound just like Chicken Little “Oh, the sky is falling!” But seriously, trust me. That’s not going to happen.

MT: Shouldn’t the mine company pay royalties to Grass Valley?

Rosy:  You’re such a comedian!

MT: Why must Grass Valley rely on a huge new mining operation to clean up the mess left by others on what is now private property?

Rosy: It doesn’t need to, of course, but it helps our cause that some people think that.

MT: The project sits on top of an earthquake splinter fault within the Foothills Fault Zone.  Could blasting deep in the earth increase the risk of subsidence and sink holes?

Rosy:  In the absence of actual knowledge, I like to say, “Always look on the bright side of life.”

MT: Long term, what will be the effect on our water quality, and thus the health of our community, from burying mine waste back into the tunnels?  As it has been explained to me, acid water could form in the mine tunnels when the pulverized rock is buried and comes into contact with water and oxygen.  Over time, even low-sulfide ore in the presence of neutralizing minerals will produce acid water, since the neutralizing minerals dissolve at a faster rate. As the mine is located near both surface and groundwater sources, acid water and released heavy metals could pollute both the City’s ground water supply and surface water, in perpetuity.

Rosy:  We’re not worried – we’ll be long gone by then.

We look forward to continuing this discussion with Rosy in the months to come.

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by Joy Waite

I see that the debate about the ramifications of Emgold Corporation of Canada re opening the Idaho Maryland Hard Rock Gold Mine has again begun. I implore every citizen of Nevada County to inform yourself.  As with any business plan, a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment must be carefully considered.

Historically, and to the present, hard rock mining remains, and I quote – one of the most dangerous industries in the world.  All underground mining work holds the same perils – explosions, rock falls, sharp edges, flying debris, and the possibility of plummeting down a shaft-but throughout the history of mining, fire has caused the greatest loss of life.  Not surprisingly, there are often similarities in the stories of miners trapped by fire.  The owners always seem to put the value of the mine above the safety of the miners.  The trapped men almost always attempt to build some sort of barricade to keep out the smoke and gas.  And there is always the heart wrenching drama of wives and families who hope against hope that their miner will survive. (47 Down: the Argonaut Mining Disaster in Jackson California by O Henry Mace). Does this ring true with recent reports of trapped miners, and with deep water oil extraction, for example?

May I suggest taking a moment to look around at all that we have here in Nevada County, what we love, the beauty that certainly was not enhanced by earlier mining activity, and why we live here.  Now think of places where people live that have allowed heavy industry.  Has the quality of life changed in those places?  Have there been any problems associated with those changes?

In the case of extractive industries, who reaps the majority of the financial benefits, who bears the cost?

In the case of a foreign corporation, where do the profits go?

What remains in the community and what is taken away? Does toxic legacy touch your sensibilities?

What is the taxpayer burden to put in place and maintain public infrastructure to support mining activity such as roads, gas pipeline, power, water supply, water quality, air quality, light and noise pollution, public safety, and all other consequences foreseen and unforeseen?

What is to be done with the volume of mine waste just to create underground access for the mining semi trucks?  Emgold has proposed extraction to at least 3000 – 5000 feet underground.  What volume of water will be pumped out of Grass Valley to keep the mine’s myriad decline, shafts, drifts… accessible, even dry?  What amount of finite petroleum supplies will be required?

Should we worry about Emgold’s financial stability based on Mine hits financial, time snags by Dave Moller Senior Staff Writer The Union Newspaper 10/17/09?

In the case of bankruptcy, or shortfall of bond funds, CERCLA, better known as Superfund, is taxpayer funded reclamation and toxic clean up.

 

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