Alternatives to the San Juan Ridge Mine

For over 40 years the San Juan Ridge community has been grappling with the threat of a gold mine that could harm the quality of life of hundreds of Nevada County residents. It has become clear that the only way to address these impacts is to find alternative uses for these lands that will benefit the community without putting resources that the community depends on at risk. And the San Juan Ridge Community is not alone. Mine scarred lands are ever-present in Nevada County.


 Three years into a stalled out San Juan Ridge Mine proposal SJRTA has begun to look at creative solutions that address this historic North Columbia Diggings property. If gold mining is not a viable land use for the North Columbia Diggings, as the SJRTA argues, then what is a viable use for this historically mine-scarred land? Lucky for us scores of people in Nevada County have already been working on this very issue and finding solutions.

Projects like the Tribute Trail and Hirschman’s Pond are examples of historic mine lands that have been cleaned up and repurposed as recreational assets to our community. In the works are other projects such as the new school site for Yuba River Charter and assessments taking place out at Blue Point on the lower Yuba River. These projects have been collaborative victories creating partnerships between local agencies, city and county governments, and non-profit organizations all while being vetted by the public. These efforts are improving the quality of life for people living in Nevada County by making it a better place to live and a more desirable place to visit. Please join us and explore the opportunities that we have to build community assets while cleaning up the contamination as a result of our mining legacy.

SJRTA has begun the process of exploring alternative land uses by holding two local workshops with community members in 2015. We found the workshops to be an exercise packed with creative ideas and hope for better recreational and economic opportunities for the future.


Break-out sessions with residents sharing their ideas for alternative uses for the North Columbia Diggings.

Participants were asked to contribute their ideas for alternative uses for historic mine lands. The response was an overwhelming assortment of ideas. Many people suggested that we increase our recreational opportunities with these lands which included trail building, open space, and entertainment venues. Participants even went on to suggest energy generation through solar fields or biomass facilities, increasing educational opportunities to research the recovery of mine-scarred lands, and agriculture. This generation of ideas suggest that we have only begun to scratch the surface with our efforts in reclaiming the lands that many have written off as “destroyed” or “useless.”


The below graph represents the 136 different responses gathered by SJRTA at the two public meetings where alternative uses were discussed. SJRTA compiled the information into eight distinct categories of potential alternatives. Recreation had the highest number of responses with 45. This result went hand in hand with people interested in promoting wilderness, protecting wildlife, and reforesting our county. One of the take-home conclusions we came to was that multiple/mixed uses for these lands can lead to benefits for a wide audience and is something that should continue to be a unifying force in these efforts. The Other designation represents all of the ideas that did not fit under the other categories. Examples of alternatives in the Other category include building a business park, transportation hub, mining gravel and others.

final graph 2

IMG_3201Of course each project that would be considered with any seriousness comes with its own unique challenges and to discuss these ideas without considering the pitfalls would not be realistic. Just like with any project there are financial considerations, the coordination of partners, and numerous other details that must not be overlooked. At the Wild & Scenic Film Festival Workshop we had guest speaker Ignacio Dayrit give a presentation on large reclamation projects in the Bay Area working through the Center for Creative Land Recycling. One important point that he made was that good projects take time and planning. You don’t have to have all the money up front in order to build consensus, plan effectively, and make sound decisions that are right for the community.

HPIM0961And that is just what we hope to do. The goal of this process is to take all of this community input, synthesize it and boil it down to a few promising land uses. These land uses can then be used as community driven alternatives to the highly risky San Juan Ridge Mine. We can ask the County Supervisors “why are we being limited as a community by impacts to our water supply and economy when we have these great opportunities available to us?” So we are not done gathering your ideas. Please take the time to fill in the questionnaire below and have your VOICE heard!

Also, please take the time to sign our petition to ask the County to drop the inactive San Juan Ridge Mine application so that we can focus our efforts on improving our community, such as working on alternative land use projects!

Alternative Use Feedback Form