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MERG THOUGHTS ON MINING
In the past two years, the MERG Board of Directors has discussed mining issues on a few occasions and we generally support Option 2 (Amendment to the 2006 General Plan) that is currently before the Board of Supervisors. Our view is that mining is legal in California and that anyone who wishes to undertake such an effort is entitled to do so in accordance with the law. This means CEQA, SMARA, Mariposa County administrative or conditional use permits, etc. We would only establish a formal position once the MERG Board determines that some kind of action is necessary in accordance with our mission to inform, educate, and engage the community.
We recognize that mining is an economic activity that can have very beneficial impacts on the operator(s) and the community at large. We are also aware that Mariposa County needs economic development. Mining done in a law-conforming and responsible manner can help achieve this end. We are also very aware of the adverse impacts that historical mining has left on this County, the region and the State. These range from dangerous abandoned open pit mines, damaged water supplies, non-restored mining sites, etc. We do not object to responsible mining operations but we certainly do not want repeats of earlier mining depredations.
The MERG Board has a number of individuals serving as Directors who come from diverse backgrounds including scientists. We don’t have any mining experts. At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, the MERG Chairman stated that he would like to make the acquaintance of some miners and learn about their occupation. We have reached out to the small miners but have not found any acceptance. We did receive invitations from two large miners and visited their sites and were very impressed with the efficiency and quality of their operations. We could not find fault or object in any way.
Additionally, we invited Ron Loya, the President of the Mariposa Museum and History Center to a recent meeting to educate us on “green mining” techniques. It appears that there is technology available that can help both small and large mining operations minimize environmental impact and still keep them efficient and economically viable. Mr. Loya has now published a white paper on GOLD MINING AND THE GREEN MOVEMENT that can be read here.
The contentious issue at present seems to be the Fremont Gold Mining Company. This company is now doing exploratory work on the site of the old “Golden Bell Mine” which MERG successfully opposed commencing in 1989. The reason for our opposition was that it was to be an open pit, cyanide heap leach mine that would seriously and adversely impact our environment. The community strongly opposed this and the project did not go forward. We have met several times with senior executive management of the Fremont Gold Mining Company and we are impressed with their methodology for operating their mine should their tests indicate that mining operations would be profitable. Based on their proposals and our discussions with them, we presently believe the mining can be done in an environmentally responsible manner. We will remain vigilant and carefully review all applications they may submit to commence operations. We believe they have the potential to positively impact our economy and wish them well in their efforts.
We also understand there are many small miners out there ranging from under an acre and thus exempt from SMARA, or the need for a mining permit, up to very significant operations on some of the County’s larger parcels. It is these larger operations that by their very nature should receive local input or control, and yet under previous mining code are the projects that are exempt from that local review via a Conditional Use Permit. The Mariposa County Board Of Supervisors has now voted to require a Conditional Use Permit for larger industrial scale mining on these larger parcels just like have been required in the past on smaller parcels, but a referendum currently under review, if valid, will delay implementation of these new requirement until after a vote by the citizens of the County is conducted. We do understand that there are those that like the fact that our County has less regulation of these large mines than any of our neighbors or most other counties in the State, but at the same time there are those that want to assure that these operations do take into account the potential impact on neighbors and the community in general. Bringing our mining code into compliance with the vast majority of counties in the rest of the State is hardly a radical idea.
Visit our new Facebook Page where we are currently discussing the mining and Conditional Use Permit issue