Cherokee residents band together against mine

When their closest neighbor, who lives a half-mile away, coughs, Cherokee residents Lee Edwards and Ellen Simon can hear it. Or so they like to say.

OK, it’s an exaggeration, but it’s one they’re proud of.

Their home, a mobile that sits on five acres of rural foothills about 12 miles from Oroville, is surrounded by pristine wilderness and walled in by silence. There are wild animals that graze, hunt and nest all around them, and they treasure the deep quiet that spreads like a thick blanket over their little valley.

That’s exactly why they’re fighting so hard against a silica sand mine that has been proposed to open just a half-mile away from their front door. The mine, they say, would shatter the rural silence they hold so dear, scare the wildlife far into the mountains, drop their property values and ruin the slow, peaceful life they moved to the area two years ago to enjoy.

“It’s the best place to live there is,” Edwards said. “It’s not just a town, it’s a way of life.”

Edwards and Simon are part of the Cherokee Preservation Society, along with many of their 300 fellow Cherokee residents. Even the thought of the 125-acre mine digging sand out of what is essentially many of these people’s back yards “makes [them] sick,” Simon said.

The mine would operate 24 hours a day for 23 years, and trucks laden with the mine’s sand would haul it out at a rate of two per hour, said Jim Wallace, Advanced Mineral Technology’s environmental consultant. Wallace, who’s based in Fair Oaks, said that while he can understand the Cherokee residents’ concern, they’re “misinformed.”

“AMT has no plans to destroy this little town,” Wallace said. “The company wants to maintain the town … and bring jobs, too.”

Wallace said the company would hire between 25 and 40 skilled workers to work at the mine.

Carol Robirds, also a member of the society, pointed out that there are several families who live less than 800 feet from the proposed mining pit. Many of those families have young children, and the bus stop where they get picked up and dropped off for school is just a stone’s throw from the mine site.

The residents are most concerned about the silica—a byproduct of sand mining—being kicked up and into the air. When it’s inhaled, they say, it causes silicosis, which is similar to black lung disease.

The Cherokee Preservation Society will meet April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Cherokee schoolhouse to discuss the mine.