New Era Mine decision has major implications

Butte County could lose authority thanks to supervisors’ blind spot

A 30-year resident of Dry Creek Canyon, Richard Meyers is a founding member of the Dry Creek Coalition (

The Dry Creek Coalition is a group of citizens living near Butte College and thrown together because of the egregious actions by the new operators of the New Era Mine. The operators have disregarded property rights and environmental constraints by building a “state of the art” heavy-metals separating plant without any of the required permits being in place first.

It has been an “ask for forgiveness, not permission” attitude from the start of activity in March 2007.

We are now faced with this huge operation that every agency we have dealt with is trying to “bring into compliance.” Not one agency, state or county, is interested in requiring what any sane person would think would be necessary with this huge increase in scale: a new permit, a responsible reclamation plan and full environmental review. As Butte County Planning Commissioner Chuck Nelson said during hearings, “You can’t tell me that if this was brought before us today, we wouldn’t require an environmental-impact report.”

We have some questions for Supervisors Josiassen, Yamaguchi and Connelly, who voted in favor of the mine.

• How can you allow a new, high-tech mine allowed to process up to 100 tons of material per hour that has denuded 12 acres of an 18-acre piece of property, in a canyon with a beautiful, fragile year-round creek ecosystem, continue to operate under the guise of a 1982 permit and hand-drawn reclamation plan?

• How can you allow such a huge operation to go on without environmental review, even though the original permit required the operator to “come back to the Board for review” if he chose to increase the scale of his operation?

• How can you decide do all this in direct conflict with staff reports, a Planning Commission resolution, and testimony from Office of Mine Reclamation personnel, a county planner and, most important, a fellow supervisor, who were all involved in the original process?

• And how can you decide to ignore the impact this mine will have on springs in the canyon, the sole source of household water for residents?

We aren’t alone in asking these questions. The California Attorney General’s Office sent a representative to the recent board meeting where the latest resolution was adopted. The California State Department of Conservation’s Office of Mine Reclamation issued a notice of violation to Butte County.

This could be a first step in the long process of relieving Butte County of its ability to review mining operations. El Dorado and Yuba counties have already lost local control of this process. Do these three supervisors want to lose local control of these important issues to benefit a single operation?