Safety issues at the Idaho Maryland Mine project


Dewatering the mine and treating the water is the first action IMM will take at the New Brunswick site. An estimated 520 million gallons will initially be dewatered. It is unclear what kind of toxins have leached into the water. While the water treatment plans are quite thorough, a failure or leak could result in a public health hazard.

Chemical Transport and Storage

Chemical transport safety will rely on the carrier to use the safest form of transport. Hydrogen sulfide and cyanide will be transported into Grass Valley by truck, likely up Highway 49. Once on site, these chemicals need to be stored (and used) in ways that ensure no accidental discharge into the environment is possible.
For details on the effects of cyanide, along with its transportation and disposal at IMM click here.


Three Temporary Powder Magazines (1,800 ft² ea.), containing 5,400 pounds of explosives will be stored on the surface in a secured Cal/OSHA approved containment area until an isolated, secured underground storage room can be constructed. This is anticipated to occur during Phase I of the project. The explosives will then be stored long term underground. (IMMProjectDescription1_102108.pdf, pg.2-12) Since explosives will be stored above ground for the entire first phase of the project; What are the chances of a fire or spark causing the explosives to explode? How would that impact other hazardous materials stored on-site? What about the lethal gas that forms when the acids come into contact?

Used with permission. Photo by John Hart, The Union

Truck Safety

Approximately 256 heavy diesel truck trips per day are planned, every day of the year. Snow and ice may add to this safety hazard. A recent dry weather incident (Oct 16, 2008) on Highway 20 (photo below) illustrates the increased risk we will undertake. The full story is here Big Rig Flips, Blocks Highway 20
Another aspect of the safety issue when dealing with numerous haul trucks is the size differential between a passenger car and these double haulers. A simple photo illustration of this size disparity is below.

Air Quality

What will air quality for workers in the mine be like? What is IMM doing to protect miners from possibly toxic air in the shaft and tunnels?

A University of Nevada, Reno, study last year says airborne mercury is present around Nevada's gold mines at much higher levels than previously thought - in some cases on par with the nation's dirtiest industrial plants. (see Is this something we will have to worry about from the IMM mine, situated within a commercial area?

Safe noise levels

Our research shows that 90 dBA (dBA: decibels compensated by an "A" weighted filter to account for limits in human hearing) is the threshold that will cause hearing damamge during an 8 hour workday. As a comparison, an ambulance siren at 100 ft. is about 92.5 dBA, and the vast majority of people say they are highly annoyed by noise rated at 80 dBA. ( Introduction to Acoustics.pdf)

Mine Safety

What are the mine safety issues we need to be aware of? Mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Even with more modern regulations, deaths and injuries in this industry are high. Between 1991 and 1999, in the United States alone, an average of 21,351 mining injuries occurred per year. In the 1990s, an average of 93 miners died per year. (US Dept. of Labor, Historical Data on Mine Disasters in the US).

The most recent US disaster in 2010 was the West Virginia Massey Mine disaster which killed 29 miners.

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