Suction Dredging Does Not Harm the Environment
The recently completed two year, $1.5 million Environmental Impact Report on suction dredging is fatally flawed and does not represent the effects from suction dredging for gold. The report includes over 1,388 pages and uses the words “may” or “might” over 1,200 times but uses the words “is proven” not once. For an activity that has been part of the California environment for over fifty years one would think that there would be some proof, not raw speculation, that dredging harms the environment.
There is no argument that earlier mining techniques such as the practice of hydaulicing were enormously destructive and the scars remain to this day. Suction dredging for gold is the most environmentally friendly method of mining ever devised and even the State agrees that all evidence of suction dredging is erased after the next storm.
To understand how the State came to conclusions of “Significant” harm to the environment you must understand how they developed their studies and what they included and what they didn’t include. While the extreme environmental groups are outraged in CDFGs decision to post regulations, the mining community is equally outraged. It is certain this issue will be resolved by the courts.
To prepare an environmental impact report you must first establish a “baseline” from which you measure changes in the environment that may occur if the project was approved. The California Department of Fish and Game used a baseline assuming that suction dredging, or in fact mining, had never taken place in California. A premise that ignore a somewhat significant event in 1849. The selection of this baseline is critical. By the same standard if a farmer was required to undergo an environmental impact report the baseline would be no farming had ever occurred in the Central Valley. Do you see the difference this would make? Instead of starting
with a baseline that the soil had been cultivated for generations you would start with an assumption that it was virgin ground. This is the assumption in the environmental impact report.
Mercury. The environmentalists have latched onto this issue stating suction dredging releases mercury. In fact, the opposite is true. According to the report suction dredgers remove – not contribute – 50kg of mercury per year across the state. During the history of suction dredging this equates to 2.5 metric tons of mercury removed from California water ways. Suction dredges are the most efficient machines invented at removing mercury and according to the Regional Water Quality Control Board in a study completed in 2005 a gold suction dredge is 98% efficient at removing mercury. A suction dredge adds nothing to the water, it is simply a vacuum cleaner and nothing more.
Check the facts. There is not a single recorded case of mercury poisoning from eating fish caught in California waters. Try to find any recorded cases of mercury poisoning in California – find one that is due to effects of mercury in the watersheds. There are none. In fact a US Geological Survey Study conducted in 2010 was unable to find any emissions in mercury from an actual running suction dredge using equipment that measured in parts per trillion. The Water Boards conducted a survey of fish in mining areas in 2007 and found that fish in historic mining areas measured below thresholds for issuing advisories (which are pretty low). They also found there was no link between mining and mercury contamination in fish. We must remember that mercury is both a naturally occurring metal (Cinnabar) and is also deposited from human sources. Suction dredges are the only equipment in use, at no expense to taxpayers, that remove mercury.
Biological Resources. The EIR states suction dredging has the potential to harm “fish.” These fish include snails, mollusks, insect larvae and about 100 pages of other plants or animals. The standard used by CDFG would mean stepping outside would harm some type of fish. Again, the findings do not represent what a suction dredge does. CDFG does not argue that in many cases suction dredging improves salmon habitat and in fact salmon actively spawn in the loose gravel created during the vacuuming process. Of the host of other “fish” evaluated there is not a single recorded instance of a suction dredge harming any fish, anywhere in the State.
Please fact check before just printing the propaganda of the State and environmental groups. Fact checking is easy. First, has there been a single recorded case of mercury poisoning from environmental sources in California. Once you answer that question then place it in perspective – how many cases of mercury poisoning occur in the entire United States per year? Are we really willing to kill an entire industry, spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?
Finally if you want to fact check. Find a single recorded instance of a suction dredge killing any type of wildlife, but in particular find one instance of a suction dredge killing a Coho salmon. None. Now, how many endangered species Coho salmon are the Karuks killing per year? So tell me again, why did we ban dredging?