Location: Grass Valley, CA
Mission Statement: Wolf Creek Community Alliance envisions a free-flowing clean creek and healthy watershed, with viable fish populations and public access. Our mission is to protect, enhance, and restore Wolf Creek, its tributaries, and watershed OUR GOALS: preservation, stewardship, restoration, monitoring, thrive as an organization and thereby have a long-lasting presence and beneficial impact in the watershed for the benefit of present and future generations.
Organization Description: WCCA is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, focused primarily on cleaning up Wolf Creek and restoring this neglected community resource to a condition of optimal health and integrity, for the benefit of all of its human and wild inhabitants.
RISE Gold Corporation is attempting to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Gold Mine. For the most up-to-date information regarding this issue, please go to https://www.minewatchnc.org/
Mine Reopening Background: In February of 2006, Emgold Mining Corporation submitted an application to re-open the Idaho-Maryland Mine and build a tile-making factory to deal with the large quantities of rock tailings produced by mine operations. A long process of environmental impact assessments ensued. Wolf Creek Community Alliance participated as a stakeholder representing the interests of Wolf Creek which would be impacted by the de-watering process and potentially by the operation of the mine.
Eventually, financial backing for reopening the mine dried up. Emgold put the permitting process on hold, and on September 10, 2012, the City of Grass Valley deemed Emgold’s application withdrawn. On February 1, 2013, a lease and option-to-purchase agreement for surface properties and mineral rights critical to the project expired. Emgold subsequently sold all of its surface properties and mineral rights, and left town.
About half of Emgold’s property was purchased by private entities for purposes other than mining. However, the core properties and mineral rights were purchased by another junior mining company from Canada, RISE Gold Corporation.
New Mine Owners in Violation: Since RISE acquired the property, they have been recruiting investors through the parent company in Canada to conduct exploratory drilling operations. The exploratory operations have raised a number of concerns, including significant violations of State and County regulations. So far, in just the exploratory drilling phase, RISE has been unable to comply with some of the most basic land use regulations:
- Violation of timber harvest regulations; in constructing an equipment storage area, RISE removed a healthy stand of timber, including ponderosa pine, incense cedar, and big leaf maple, without a timber harvest plan.
- Multiple violations of the 100′ riparian setback from a perennial stream (in this case South Wolf Creek, a tributary of Wolf Creek, which runs in close proximity to this site).
- Failure to follow the approved grading plan.
- Multiple violations of Storm Water Management best practices.
- Violation of a subsequent Comprehensive Management Plan.
Additional concerns with the exploratory operations:
- Advances in drilling technologies allow directional drilling and drilling to greater depths. The drilling equipment being operated by RISE (24 hours per day, 7 days per week) is essentially a super-sized well-drilling rig. It can drill a mile deep and is multi-directional, so it can “explore” under neighboring properties. Drilling operations can continue for many months.
- Multiple shafts penetrate the impermeable rock layers that underlie local shallow aquifers. The potential damage to residential water wells, local aquifers, and the adjacent perennial stream is unknown.
- Repeated noise complaints from residents with homes near the mine site.
- Repeated light pollution complaints due to bright floodlights. And dust.
- Hundreds of gallons of drilling fluid compounds and lubricants are used. Strong odors of solvents reported by passing cars.
- Since no permit is required for exploratory drilling, there is no prescribed oversight from County officials; enforcement action is driven by complaints.
- There are no requirements for restoration or reclamation plans.
- There is no bonding, licensing, or insurance required.
Wolf Creek Community Alliance is working with Community Environmental Advocates (CEA) to address these issues.
Documents filed by RISE reveal some objectionable aspects of the planned mining operation. These include the following:
- The project would remove forested areas and deposit massive amounts of waste rock and tailings on two Grass Valley sites, ultimately covering 75 acres to depths of up to 90 feet. Haul trucks would run on Brunswick Road and Whispering Pines Lane up to 100 round trips daily 16 hours a day. Residential neighborhoods in the area would be significantly impacted by noise, dust, traffic, and the prospect of living adjacent to large processing facilities and continuous gravel operations involving bulldozers, graders, and compactors.
- The project would consume a quantity of PG&E electricity equal to what is used by approximately 5000 homes and emit around 9,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. In this time of climate crisis, this is inexcusable.
- The dewatering of the mine would require a purification system to run forever to remove pollutants. Wells are at risk. The outflow would put South Fork Wolf Creek at flood stage with multiple impacts to riparian habitat and to the Grass Valley drainage systems.
Once again we need to get engaged. At this early stage there are two key things you can do to help shape public opinion: (1) Contact Nevada County Supervisors and Grass Valley City Council and express your concern; and (2) Write letters and op-eds to news outlets. More information about this project can be found here.
- WCCA’s Website
- Volunteer Opportunities
- To receive our email newsletter as well as periodic announcements regarding events of interest to the environmental community, just send us your contact information via e-mail (mail to: [email protected]), letting us know your specific area(s) of interest regarding Wolf Creek (we won’t share your name or contact information with anyone).