Archive for August, 2011

I’m encouraged to see that the publisher of The Union, in his editorial today (“Can we have our milk and drink it, too?“), supports the sustainability movement

“Who doesn’t support the sustainability movement?” you might ask.

Well, in Jeff Ackerman’s account, mostly the federal government:

Last week I went to see a documentary called “Farmageddon,” which convinced me that our government has declared war on this sustainability movement. The last https://minetalk.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=538&action=edit#category-allthing Uncle Sam wants today is a society able to think and act for itself. He’d rather have us clamped firmly on his teat and as far away from a goat or cow’s udder as he can keep us.

If we start drinking milk straight from a goat or cow — like our ancestors did before us — what would happen to the food industry, or the federal Food and Drug Agency that controls it?

… Most of the small farmers grow food and milk cows and goats to feed their families, friends and neighbors. This country was once a nation of farmers, and that’s the way we operated. The upside to this down economy is this sustainability movement, which is encouraging us to return to the days when we fed ourselves, our families and our neighbors with food and milk we grew and raised with our own two hands.

It’s nice to see an editorial in The Union in support of sustainability.

I’m curious to know, though, whether this now means that Jeff Ackerman has joined the growing number of Nevada County residents who oppose the ginormous local non-sustainable project being considered by the City of Grass Valley, the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine for speculative exploration, a project that he has previously supported? Hardrock mining for gold, a non-renewable resource, is the epitome of non-sustainability.

But back to Farmageddon. I need to understand this better: Is the government at war with organic farming, at war with sustainability, or just at war with raw milk?

Maybe I’ll start by watching Farmageddon, which I’ve not yet seen.

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Bob Crabb, our local and justifiably renowned political cartoonist, has a depiction in today’s Union (“It Takes a Village Idiot“) of the uneasy relationship between the citizens of Grass Valley and Emgold, the Canadian penny-stock speculative gold-exploration company that wants to re-open the old Idaho-Maryland Mine for — of all things! — speculative exploration .

Today’s cartoon visually suggests that this relationship may be about to get more complicated by the arrival of the US mining gorilla, Newmont Mining Corporation, which is shown in the cartoon as a gigantic hairy-armed torso towering over the city and over Emgold’s IMM project. (Newmont recently purchased the 700-acre North Star Property for the purpose, they say, of building a mine-water treatment facility).

Crabb’s sweet image of the city of Grass Valley itself bears a strong resemblance to the helmeted goddess, Athena, patron of Athens, protector of the polis: She is shown wearing a toga and a common (non-regal) warrior’s helmet. She’s an image of purity, a portrayal of the democratic ideal in peril, looking up in wary hesitation at the fearsome hulking figure of Newmont.

The most interesting feature in the scene is the image of IMM as a diminutive figure holding up a Canadian flag, completely wrapped like a mummy in red-tape by the city of Grass Valley, which applies the tape with one hand while holding an endless roll of it in the other.

Newmont, in Crabb’s rendering, is wielding a miner’s pickaxe, and is much too massive and powerful a creature to be restrained by red tape wielded by a mere village.

My first strong impression when I saw this cartoon was that it shouted out the message, “Poor IMM would go forward if it weren’t for all that unreasonable red tape!”

The truth, as is so often the case in politics (including political cartoons), is far different and far more nuanced.

The city, in fact, has much to fear from Emgold and its proposed IMM project. There is increasing realization among local citizens of the massive scale of the project, in striking contrast to Crabb’s miniscule image of it.

IMM’s underground mineral rights map comprises 2800 acres, an area nearly as large as the entire city of Grass Valley itself.

Look at a map of those 2800 below-surface acres and you will see that they underlie Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital at one extent, Loma Rica at another, the airport at a third, and finally out to the confluence of Brunswick Road and the Colfax Highway.

Also massive is the use of resources it would require, if approved.

“The proposed ceramics plant would double Nevada County’s total yearly natural gas consumption. (1,100M cu. ft. per year)

“No natural gas service exists to the old mine site, and Nevada County may not have enough total pipeline capacity to supply the plant.

“The proposed mining operation yearly electric consumption is more than one third of the 2006 PG&E total supplied to all of Nevada County. (172GWhr per year)

“Diesel to fuel up to 214 20-ton truck trips per day, every day.”

(From “Energy Consumption of Proposed Emgold Mining Operations”).

These are huge impacts. Every part of Western Nevada County would be affected by that project.

The only thing about the IMM proposal that’s not huge, ironically, is the number of jobs that it would create.

Half the promised jobs would occur only if the very problematic patent-pending ceramics plant is built, and there is no way to know how many of the few remaining jobs would go to locals. But think about it: Studies of mining industry jobs show that most require both secondary education (special training) and prior experience. Does this sound like our local workforce?

Sadly, when compared to the General Plan for that site, the IMM project represents a net job loss to Nevada County, along with a huge loss in quality of life for everyone here.

Clearly, the strongest argument against approving Emgold’s IMM project application is a business argument.

If the Idaho-Maryland project application is approved, the image of Athena in that scene will need to be revised to depict a world-weary Athena dressed in a tattered and soiled robe, on her knees in abject apology to the citizens of her village, whom she has so badly served.

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From Earthjustice:

Dear Friend,

Back in May, more than 26,000 Earthjustice supporters stood up to tell the Obama administration to close a massive Bush-era loophole in the Clean Water Act that is allowing mining companies to dump their toxic and dangerous mining waste directly into the waters we rely on.

That mining waste loophole still exists, and each day that the Obama administration doesn’t close it, a gold mine in Alaska pumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater slurry into Lower Slate Lake, killing its fish and aquatic life. This is happening in Alaska, and rivers and streams in many other states could be next. High gold and metal prices have triggered a mining boom that, without stronger regulation, threatens countless lakes, streams and wetlands in Alaska and throughout the country.

For the next two days, we ask you to help us follow-up on those 26,000 letters by taking part in our National Call-In Event to protect our waters from dangerous mining waste. Thousands of Earthjustice supporters will be joining with supporters of the National Wildlife Federation, EarthWorks, and Natural Resources Defense Council to make a strong statement to the Obama administration: This loophole must be closed immediately!

You can help stop the mine and protect clean water by calling the Environmental Protection Agency. This will only take a few minutes, and it’s easy. Please take action to tell the Obama administration to close this loophole immediately.

After you call, please let us know how it went by logging your call on our website.

Make Your Call Today Or Tomorrow:

The Environmental Protection Agency: (202) 564-4700

When the receptionist answers the phone, please express your desire to leave a public comment for the agency. Please urge the agency to close the loophole in the Clean Water Act immediately so mining companies can’t dump toxic waste into the nation’s waters.

Here’s a sample of what you can say (and we hope you will add your personal touch, too):
“Hello! My name is [first name] [last name], and I live in [my city], [my state].

“I’m calling to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to close the loophole in the Clean Water Act so mining companies can’t dump toxic waste into the nation’s waters.

“Mining companies are using the 2002 loophole in the Clean Water Act rule to bury streams and lakes with untreated mining wastes.

“The EPA should close the mine waste dumping loophole immediately.”
After You Make Your Call: Please let us know about your call experience by logging your call on our website, or by emailing action@earthjustice.org.
Why are we calling the Environmental Protection Agency?
The Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for managing the Clean Water Act, and the EPA can act directly to close the loophole. That’s why it’s important that they hear from concerned citizens like you.
Thank you for taking the time to speak out! If you have a few extra minutes and would like to join the Earthjustice supporters who are calling the other agencies, you can call the White House Council on Environmental Quality at (202) 395-5750 and the Army Corps of Engineers at (202) 761-0099.

©2011 Earthjustice | 426 17th Street, 6th Floor, Oakland, CA 94612 | 510-550-6700 | action@earthjustice.org

PHOTO CREDITS: Top: Lower Slate Lake in Alaska, before the Kensington Gold Mine’s waste dumping and after. (Before: Irene Alexakos; After: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.) Middle: Aerial photos of Lower Slate Lake before and after the Kensington Gold Mine’s dumping of mining waste. (Before: Photo by Pat Costello, courtesy of LightHawk.) Bottom: Polluted Cabin Creek, near Leewood, West Virginia. (Mark Schmerling)

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Emgold, the speculative Canadian penny-stock gold exploration company that hopes to re-open the old Idaho-Maryland Mine in Grass Valley, refers in its current press release to a single 2006 survey question that was of dubious validity when it was first asked and was made obsolete by the subsequent results of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in 2008.

Emgold continues to refer to that single conditional question as if it were an entire survey supporting its application, when it is nothing of the sort.

Here’s how Emgold spins it:

In 2006, an independent survey by the City of Grass Valley showed 72% of residents were in favor of the project, 16% were undecided, and 12% were opposed.

The 2006 survey in fact 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?” (emphasis mine).

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. The DEIR thus shows that the prerequisite condition in that single question was not met, making any further reference to it obsolete and invalid.

It is significant that only 338 people responded to the survey (less than 3% out of a total population of approximately 12,000), many fewer than those who have since signed petitions opposing the mine. 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.”

One must conclude that this survey — with regard to the single Idaho-Maryland Mine question contained within it — had little merit at the time it was conducted, and in any case became obsolete when the DEIR revealed that the single prerequisite condition for that question was not met, and cannot be met.

Given the strong expression of support for environmental concerns in the majority of answers to all the questions in this survey, one might now just as reasonably conclude that the survey shows strong evidence of potentially widespread opposition to the mine in the community of Grass Valley.

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