By Deni Silberstein
Reprinted from The Union with the permission of the author.
In a recent Other Voices column, Christian Stewart expressed his opinions about Community Environmental Advocates’ response to Rise Gold’s Centennial cleanup project. CEA spends untold numbers of volunteer hours combing through hundreds of pages of technical documents, teasing out the facts — not the opinions — of what Rise’s plan for the reopening of the mine will look like, and discerning what will be its impact on our community.
Here are a few examples of Stewart’s opinions, and the corresponding facts:
1. “Rise has proposed to pay for cleanup” of the Centennial site. FACT: The Centennial site will be used as a dumping ground for Rise Gold’s mine waste. But since that site is polluted from previous mining dumps, Rise must clean it up before they will be allowed to dump their own mine waste onto it. Cleaning it up is a state mandate; it’s not something Rise “proposed” to do out of the goodness of their heart.
2. “No mining is proposed at all for Centennial.” FACT: It’s disingenuous to say that “no mining is proposed” for the Centennial site — for up to five years, that site will be used, exclusively, for the dumping of Rise’s mine waste until this waste is a 70-foot high pile of rocks. At the end of this time, commercial development may occur atop this rock pile.
3. “CEA has come out against the environmental cleanup process at Centennial.” FACT: CEA is definitely not against the cleanup. CEA is definitely in favor of the cleanup. As mentioned in a previous comment, what CEA is against is the illegal use of the cleanup as a cover-up for the environmental damage that the dumping of Rise Gold’s mine wastes will cause to the Centennial site. In other words, Rise is attempting to subsume mining activities under the masquerade of the cleanup project in order to avoid having to conform to the California Environmental Quality Act. This is illegal, and lawyers have submitted a 25-page document outlining the many laws that Rise will be violating if it proceeds with the cleanup as proposed. Does this mean that Rise either needs to take the time to write a legal cleanup proposal that eliminates the site as a dumping ground for mine waste, or else take the time to include the Centennial dumping site as a component of the mine’s general, CEQA required, environmental impact report? Yes. Doing things correctly often takes more time than not.
4. Stewart says that CEA claims the Centennial site is a “protected natural resource critical to a functioning watershed.” FACT: This is true. The site is “protected” in that it is an area deserving of a fair analysis under CEQA. To disagree with this truth shows either a lack of understanding about the importance and necessity of healthy watersheds, an indifference to them, or both.
5. Stewart claims that a campaign is under way to “save the historic tailings pond.” FACT: CEA is not involved in a “campaign” to “save the historic tailings pond” except to the extent explained in No. 3 above. It is worth mentioning, however, that these tailings ponds, which killed and polluted the entire area for the decades that followed, are slowly beginning to recover. And since these damaged wetlands are all that previous mining activity has left us, it would be beneficial to the watershed to minimize additional man-made damage to them, and let them get on with their recovery.
6. The mine is the “biggest economic development project this county has seen in decades.” FACT: This is an overly-simplified understanding of what is needed for a healthy, foothill economy. CEA recommends reading a summary of the economic study done for the 2008 mine proposal (www.cea-nc.org/the-idaho-maryland-mine/impacts-to-jobs-and-housing-from-the-proposed-idaho-maryland-mine/), which indicates that a mine may not be the best business for the local economy, then waiting to see what the newly agreed upon economic study will reveal.
7. CEA is trying to kill the cleanup process of a “blighted site in the heart of our community.” FACT: See No. 3 above. In addition, CEA completely agrees that this “blighted site” is in the heart of our community, which is why CEA is working hard to prevent another mine from continuing this blighting of our community’s heart.
8. “CEA are NIMBYs enabled by CEQA.” FACT: When it comes to Canadian mining companies ripping up the heart of Grass Valley, then, yep — we’re NIMBYs! And thank goodness for CEQA!
Deni Silberstein lives in Grass Valley.