The Sierra Fund receives support for work on “gold mining's toxic legacy”

Nevada City, CA —

The Sierra Fund is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant from The California Endowment to begin working with a broad coalition of partners to build a multi-year environmental justice campaign that will leverage the scientific, engineering and policy resources needed to address “gold mining’s toxic legacy.”

Ever since gold was discovered in the Sierra Nevada in 1848, mining activities to extract gold, copper and other minerals have had an impact on the state’s human and environmental health. This has left behind toxic elemental mercury used as part of the mining process, and released naturally occurring arsenic and asbestos into the landscape.

Mining has left a lasting legacy of toxic contamination that threatens the health of humans and wildlife throughout California. While some scientific work has begun to establish the danger of these environmental toxins, there is much at the landscape level that is not known. Neither is there a unified network of communities and individuals responding to the effects of mining’s toxins.

The Sierra Fund’s new Mining Toxics Initiative will lay the groundwork for development and implementation of a comprehensive plan to remediate environmental problems, develop health interventions to reduce the risk to Sierra communities, and protect the health of humans and wildlife throughout the Sierra and the downstream communities of the San Francisco bay area. This 18-month project will:

  • Complete a comprehensive needs assessment that will lay out what is known about the environmental and the public health threats presented by historic mining in the Sierra and identify where more information is needed.

  • Engage stakeholders in assessing the problem and designing needed responses; involve community members and policymakers in understanding and planning solutions for the legacy of mining toxics.

  • Develop a “blue ribbon panel” that will oversee completion of a comprehensive plan for environmental remediation and public health treatment response, which will be completed within one year of the start of the planning process. The outcome of this plan will be to lay the groundwork for the implementation of a regional strategy to address mining’s toxic legacy.

Partners in this project include the South Yuba River Citizens League, the Northern Sierra Rural Health Network (composed of 47 rural and Indian health clinics), International Indian Treaty Council, the US Geological Survey, and the State Water Resources Control Board. Professors at CSU Chico's School of Public Health and Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences will conduct the scientific and health research and data analysis for this project.

The Sierra Fund will be hiring community organizers to perform some of the regional and community outreach supported by this grant from The California Endowment. More information on these activities will be announced in early June 2006.