Gold & Water on San Juan Ridge

The perennial battle resumes, as reported by the New York Times.

An excerpt.

NEVADA CITY, Calif. — It is quiet at Tim Callaway’s gold mine, with its crumbling concrete, rotting wood and the occasional butterfly accustomed to undisturbed access. But there is plenty of commotion over what’s below the surface: an unseen 240,000 ounces of ore.

To reach it will take more than dynamite. Mr. Callaway, 62, who calls himself “a steward of the land,” must take on an alliance of local residents, many of them city escapees, who protest that reopening the mine would threaten their water and the tranquillity they came here for.

“Why is gold mining practically extinct in this state?” Mr. Callaway asks, before providing his own answer: “It’s not because of lack of resources. It’s because most companies are not willing to go through this tortuous ordeal.”

But he is. After mining here in the 1990s, Mr. Callaway has returned to San Juan Ridge, near the scenic Yuba River 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, to dig for gold in a way that he says is environmentally sound.

The battle is being waged in the forested Sierra foothills where forty-niners once roamed, and it is hard to escape reminders of why it is called Gold Country: historical markers, museums, the county seal depicting a fortune hunter panning in a local stream. By 2012, there were only 17 working mines in the state, but at about $1,300 an ounce on the world market, gold still offers a tantalizing payoff. In this area, “only about half the resources have been mined,” said Charles N. Alpers, a research chemist with the United States Geological Survey.

And Mr. Callaway personifies what is left of a mining tradition. He has lived in and around Gold Country for much of his life. Like his father and grandfather before him, he has been a gold miner in California and Nevada. He collects miners’ diaries and vintage equipment.

But Gold Country has undergone profound change.

Loggers and miners who worked the land near San Juan Ridge began to be displaced by urban refugees looking for a way back to nature. “We were similar in many ways, only we didn’t wear as much clothing,” says Gary Snyder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet associated with the so-called deep ecology movement, who arrived in 1970.

Retrieved August 23, 2014 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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