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A Win for Gold Mines in the Golden State

Natural resource development in the United States received good news Friday.  California’s Sutter Gold Mining Inc. has secured the necessary state permits and financing to begin mining as early as next year.  The mining company has been using the historic mining site as a tourist attraction to create income while they wade through the Golden State’s regulatory process.  More than a decade later, the company has finally announced that it can finally move forward.

Environmental groups have battled gold mining projects like Sutter Creek’s for decades.  The huge increase in demand for gold in recent years has led to a resurgence in gold mining interest in California.  Two mines—Briggs and Mesquite Mines— have already reopened in the last couple of years, but others like the Idaho-Maryland mine northeast of Sacramento still battles on against significant opposition.  No article on the matter would be complete without quotes from the Sierra Fund or Citizens Looking at the Impacts of Mining in Grass Valley (CLAIM-GV).

These groups’ radical hostility toward domestic hard rock mining is noteworthy.  The Sierra Fund is not only against this project, but even against the original California Gold Rush—the period in which the Golden State was truly born.  They call the Gold Rush “a huge giveaway of public or indigenous resources to private profiteers, a mass production of long term poverty disguised as a carnival of riches… nature and the public domain squandered for private gain, in which the many were impoverished so that a few could be enriched.”

Sierra Fund’s radical vision drives environmental regulations that keep many more thousands of ounces of gold trapped under California.  As the Sacramento Bee noted about Jamestown Mine in Tuolumne County in November last year, “Gold has recently shot above $1,300 an ounce [now $1,500], but turning the machines back on would be impractical because of environmental regulations, according to Gary Wilson of Jamestown, a real estate broker and partner in a massive development proposed for the site.”  Rather than deal with the environmental regulatory state, Wilson has instead just decided to use the site as a tourist attraction complete with a baseball complex and botanical gardens.

Today, however, is a win for American natural resource production.  The Sutter Gold Miners will dig up a massive pirate’s treasure, 223 thousand ounces of gold worth upwards of $800 million.  Nonetheless, one cannot help but think of the regulatory pirates who almost kept this treasure buried.

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