HISTORY TO REPEAT
Gold mining will return to the foothills sure as rain in the coming decades. The veins remaining below will prove too precious to ignore as reserves elsewhere play out. Up to 90% of the ore down there still awaits.
Grass Valley and Nevada City originally were mining towns and then buoyed through the Great Depression with the mines still going strong.
Today’s gold rush seems to be retirees able to cash out of their Bay Area houses and afford quieter homes and lives. This has brought a measure of economic strain, especially since the Great Recession of 2008-09, absent an underpinning of active mines.
Rise Gold is only the latest to try reopening the Idaho-Maryland. Financial difficulties and community pushback stopped the previous owner, Emgold, in 2010, before they even got to an environmental impact report. A draft report on Rise’s plan may be ready by September. Then things will get interesting.
Cynicism abounds about gold mining ever happening again. In this state? Today’s environment? Against such hostility, all those NIMBYs? That high of a cost, so much cleanup? Good luck, critics snicker.
Maybe so. Probably so, in our short sight. But if not Rise, then the next or maybe the next bid after that, years from now. It’s coming. Bank on it.
What conditions should a mine have to pass to reopen? This isn’t my decision, of course, but I boiled them down to three:
1. Truly improve the community’s environmental health.
2. Benefit the local economy.
3. Fit in the neighborhood.
In that order.
I don’t find myself persuaded by know-nothing neighbors resorting to rumors, scare-mongering environmental advocates, or chamber of commerce types who see no evil so long as a whiff of cash hangs in the air. All just so much gossip, fodder for social media, and there will be plenty.
Neither does lazy cynicism about dead mines staying that way forever and ever convince me of much more than a rather profound lack of foresight, scary even.
Technology and methods change. What was impossible, even laughable, yesterday often enough becomes today’s slam dunk.
So it’s not at all out of hand to envision success with wildly ambitious, expensive notions of reopening old gold mines where everyone till now has failed. And what if the new Idaho-Maryland could in fact satisfy all three conditions? Just imagine.
Shouldn’t we at least bother to find out?
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.