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Regional
Grass Valley Provides Online Information on Proposed Idaho-Maryland Mine
Author: YubaNet
Published on Mar 9, 2006 - 8:08:00 AM

In an effort to facilitate public awareness and participation in its ongoing environmental review process of the proposed Idaho-Maryland Mine project, the City of Grass Valley has posted an Idaho-Maryland Project Public Documents Page on the city website, available here.

City residents can now access a huge database of downloadable maps, reports, plates, photographs, technical studies, and virtually all the public documentation currently available on Emgold Mine Corp's application to reopen the old gold mine in Grass Valley, Calif.

Interested parties now have free and easy access to this voluminous documentation, including reports such as the Economic Viability Study done by Bay Area Economics, a consulting firm hired by the city.

The city's web page has a link to download Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is needed to view the files. Given the large size of the files, high speed internet access will definitely improve the downloading time.

Mine application documents can also be viewed at Grass Valley City Hall, Grass Valley Public Library, and Madelyn Helling County Library. According to the website, for $15/disc, the city will also provide a CD of the application documents. To obtain a copy, contact City of Grass Valley Planning Division at 274-4331, or by email: info@cityofgrassvalley.com

Grass Valley held the first in a series of planned public workshops on the proposed mine on January 25, 2006. Public comment cards were distributed and an online version of the public comment card is available on the website. The city is asking citizens to help planners identify issues, concerns and questions that can be addressed in the extensive environmental review.

City planners recently launched their three-phased approach for evaluating the application. The entire process, which is projected to take from 19 months to 2 years, will include:

1. Phase I (January to May 2006): Master Environmental Assessment (MEA)
2. Phase II ( May to September 2006): Final Initial Study and Notice of Preparation
3. Phase III (September 2006-May 2007): Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

The consulting firm of Environmental Science Associates (ESA) was hired by the city to prepare the MEA, Initial Study, and EIR.

Emgold, headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., hopes to win city, state, and federal approval to reopen the underground mine, shuttered since 1956. Plans call for mining 2,000 feet deeper than the original mine (3,000 ft.). 70 miles of flooded tunnels would have to be dewatered and treated mine effluent would be dumped into South Fork Wolf Creek (Wolf Creek empties into Bear River, a tributary to the Sacramento River).

Once the waste rock and gold-bearing ore are separated, the ore would be ground to a powdery consistency and chemically-stripped of its microscopic gold specks using a cyanide leach process. Then, in a plan to avoid expensive impoundment of tailings, Emgold hopes to melt and re-form these cyanidized tailings into ceramic tile products using a patented invention it calls Ceramext. Waste rock would then be crushed into road aggregate and spread around roadways.

Emgold is promising 200 jobs in the mine and 200 jobs in its ceramics factory.

Emgold's subsidiary, Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp, submitted its application to the city in February 2005. The project is highly controversial given its location within the town's boundaries, environmental/economic risks to residential neighbors and the watershed, the developer's unorthodox plan for handling tailings (partially addressed in the Economic Viability Study), and the unsustainable nature of hardrock gold mining. The mine would close in 20 years after which reclamation would commence.

Other concerns include aquifer and private well depletion, increased truck traffic, dust, and noise, and the potential to add to the cumulative damage already done to the watershed via cyanide, arsenic and acid mine drainage. The old Empire Mine, which also closed in 1956 and sits next door to the Idaho-Maryland, has left the city and state with an expensive toxic legacy that continues to pose a public health risk. Taxpayers will pick up the tab to repair the damage unless Newmont Mining, the former Empire Mine owners, agrees to do so.

All of these issues, and many more, will be addressed in the MEA/EIR process and the resulting documentation will be posted to the city's website.

Related articles:

Arsenic Leaching Prompts Public Health Advisory in Grass Valley

Baykeeper and State Parks Reach Agreement on Toxic Legacy of Empire Mine

Grass Valley Hosts Public Outreach Presentation on Emgold's Proposed Mine

YubaNet.com's 5-part Special Report on the Idaho-Maryland Mine:"Golden Gamble in Grass Valley."

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