Reclaiming the Sierra 2012 a success

8 May 2012 – Locals and regional experts alike came together last Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City to look at the ways abandoned mines impact California, and what can be done to address these impacts.

Reclaiming the Sierra 2012:  Green $olutions to Abandoned Mines, drew more than 150 attendees from California and beyond.  The event, hosted by local organization The Sierra Fund, included technical presentations, strategic discussion of what to do next, tours, and workshops for community members.

The three-day event began on Thursday May 3 with an excellent keynote address by Mark Nechodom, Director of California’s Department of Conservation.   Director Nechodom gave a powerful speech about bringing real resources to the problems posed by abandoned mines.  “He challenged us – and his agency – to address the abandoned mine problems in our lifetimes so that our grandchildren are not still saddled with the legacy of these mines,” noted Dr. Carrie Monohan, Science Director for The Sierra Fund.  “His speech was inspirational, and created an atmosphere of hope and action that we built on for the rest of the conference.”

Other highlights of the conference program on Thursday included well attended workshops for health and legal professionals, technical presentations on cleanup technologies and methods, and discussion of ongoing and proposed projects including the proposed San Juan Ridge mine.

On Friday, May 4 conference participants left the Miners Foundry for tours of exemplary projects in the area.  “Friday’s four tours were undoubtedly the most effective piece of our conference agenda,” said Izzy Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund.  “Participants got to see, back to back, examples of the stunning scale of environmental impacts to our region from historic mining, then an award winning example of a mine cleanup project, then a place where an active mining operation is reclaiming their site to be much better than how they found it.”

After the tours, attendees reconvened with local officials, conference sponsors, The Sierra Fund board members and others at the Miners Foundry for a reception and “Sierra Crest Awards” presentation.

The Sierra Crest awards are presented annually to an individual, an organization and an agency exhibiting leadership in helping Sierra communities address legacy mining impacts.  The 2012 awards were presented to Rick Humphreys, who recently retired from the State Water Resources Control Board; the Karuk Tribe for leadership on addressing suction dredge mining; and California State Parks for their active role in addressing mining impacts at Sierra District parks.  Leaf Hillman accepted the award for the Karuk Tribe, and Sierra District Supervisor Marilyn Linkem and State Parks geologist Syd Brown accepted the award for State Parks.

Saturday, the final day of the conference, included workshops for community members to learn about abandoned mine impacts on their property, the fish they eat, and what they can do to get involved if a mine is proposed to open.

The conference closed with a presentation of prizes to the top three entries in the conference student poster session.  The poster session featured 15 entries by students in the CSU Chico College of Natural Resources.  Graduate students Rebecca Bushway and Harihar Nepal won first and second place respectively, and undergraduate Colter Cook won third place.