Canyon Creek

where 4 open pit gold mining sites
are proposed in the Trinity National Forest
 
Nine miles up Canyon Creek, by the confluence of East Fork Canyon Creek and Canyon Creek, a company from Texas, Master Petroleum, wants to mine more than 20 acres of very fragile land - very beautiful land with steep cliffs and great biodiversity.

Canyon Creek is a major tributary to the Trinity River, and a critical habitat for salmon recovery.

Note: We had a computer crash and lost all letters submitted before July 1 - If yours might have been one - please re-submit.

Read the Eureka Times-Standard story

Submit your opinion to the Forest Service

 

During the Gold Rush - from the 1850s - and for a hundred years - these mountains were violently ransacked by miners.

Is it worth it to destroy mountains, streams, meadows and forests so somebody can make money?


Canyon Creek is unique, bold, beautiful and fragile

The Canyon Creek area of the Trinity Alps has rare characteristics. It is a meeting place of several geologic formations and ages. Part of the area was covered with ice once, and the rest became a refuge for plants, insects, birds and mammals escaping the ice.

 

It is one of the northernmost habitats of plants that escaped climate change from southern central America, principally the high mountains of Mexico which are now desert.

All have prospered here to make this area uniquely rich in biodiversity.

Canyon Creek is known for its wild, evocative beauty, but it is a rich mosaic of trees, rock types, soils, birds, and plants. It is a complex area very worthy of study.

Despite the vicious mining activity, there are stands of giant old growth firs and pines in Canyon Creek. Complex communities of fungi, lichen and moss are seen throughout the area. The importance of these communities in the re-evolution of the forests cannot be overstated. They play vital roles in the recreation of the forest by providing nutrients.

Huge old Douglas Fir and sugar pines reside in the forests on the mining sites. A 10-foot diameter fir is the parent to a vast, rich understory. Old firs and pines cling to the sides of cliffs that were created with the last bout of mining.

Four new openpit gold mines - destroying many acres of forest and extracting hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from Canyon Creek and East Fork is not appropriate here !

In the mining sites, 45-foot deep pits are proposed for blasting out the earth for gold. The blasting will come from hundreds of thousands of gallons of water diverted from the East Fork of Canyon Creek.

The mining would require the removal of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every day out of the East Fork of Canyon Creek. This is a precious source of cold water for Canyon Creek, and an important refuge and nursery for native fish.

Removal of so much water for the mines would destroy the instream flows that are so critical for the recovery of the native fish.

An astounding number of tree species - particularly conifers - abound in Canyon Creek. In these lovely mixed forests are found five stories of trees. In the top story are several kinds of firs, pines, cedars and hemlock. Then oaks, laurels, maples and madrones form a broadleaf sub canopy. Under that grow dogwoods, yews, elderberry, buckeyes, cascara and yews. Then comes a layer of hazel, poison oak, wild rose, ceanothus, redbud, berries (blue, black, huckleberry, salmon, snow, thimble and goose), azalea, rhododendron. The lower level is a herb layer of ferns, iris, violets, pyrolas, orchids and hundreds of wildflowers. (Credit: David Rains Wallace, The Klamath Knot)

 

The proposed mines would be active 25 years and cause the movement of 1.4 million cubic yards of earth. Master Petroleum will remove 22 acres of trees. Bulldozers will remove 17,745 cubic yards of topsoil. New roads will be built. Many two-acre settling ponds will be created. Topsoil will be removed - pushed into gullies - to get to bedrock.

 

Granite peaks overlook the drainage of the East Fork of the Canyon Creek.

A popular trail originates here for a five mile hike to a beautiful alpine lake.

A little farther up Canyon Creek is the most popular trail in the Trinity Alps. It leads to two alpine lakes and a magnificent view from the inside of the 9,000 foot mountains.

The proposed mine area is immediately adjacent to the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

This meadow is the test site for the 10-acre Area #2 mine proposed.

One local said: "The citizens of Trinity County value the Canyon Creek watershed as one of their major sources of tourist attraction when you take in the traffic to the trailhead and lakes, and the benifit that Canyon Creek has to the Trinity River restoration and that we as citizens of Trinity County are angered and saddened that the Forest Service and US government would allow a corporation not only from out-of-county but out-of-state to come in and reap profits from public land within Trinity County and endangering our economy in the process."


The Legacy of Mining in Canyon Creek
Once upon a time there were cities in the canyon, and hundreds of mines. There was massive upheaval of the land and the streams. After the mines played out, the miners left, and left the wreckage behind. There are visual reminders everywhere of the mining. It's not just ugly, it leaves the land devoid of its ability to grow back to nature.

It took millions of years to grow these forests through a delicate process of soil accumulation. The trees make the soil through a long process of shedding bark and needles, and decomposing after death. Soil is a precious commodity in Canyon Creek.

 
Blue Bird Mine

It is rocky country. With the mining, the trees get cut, and the soil gets washed away.

In just a few years, mining destroys all that work, then the land takes a very long time to heal.

Ten years ago, Junction City Elementary School with the help of AmeriCorps and the Forest Service set out to rehabilitate the area. But that was a very difficult task. In the photo at the right, all the black rectangles on the ground represent areas where tree seedlings were planted two years ago.

Miners who came to the Trinity River in the late 1800's and early 1900's washed away whole mountains with hydraulic monitors. Their powerful jets continuously sprayed huge streams of water against the side of a hill in the search for gold. Miners also built large, floating gold factories called bucket line dredges that dug up entire river valleys. The dirt and rock left behind, in the wake of these types of mining, resulted in the huge piles of rock, or tailings, you see along the river -- this ugly testimony to a bygone era tells of a time when the value of nature was subordinated to the lust for wealth. That is exactly the same sentiment that is used today to justify this mining proposal. In their application, Master Petroleum says the world is in short supply of gold.

Mining still occurs along the river. The preferred method is suction dredging. You may see modern miners at work in the Trinity River as you travel along. Miners today work with three different agencies in their search for gold. The Bureau of Land Management manages the minerals, the Forest Service, the land where the minerals are found; and the State of California, the waterways.
 

Express your opinion to the U.S. Forest Service about the proposed Canyon Creek open pit gold mines.
This is the sample letter. You may edit it as you wish in the box below - just type right in the box. Then enter your name and email address, and click 'Submit." We will get your letter to the Commissioners.

 

Dear Forest Service,

It is not appropriate for the Forest Service to allow open pit mines in Canyon Creek in the Trinity National Forest.

The environment is too ecologically important in its natural state; and, it takes too long for it to recover from mining operations.

The area is too fragile and too steep to accommodate such massive mining as proposed by Master Petroleum.

The vast amounts of topsoil to be removed and trees to be cut are far too much more than this area can tolerate.

The massive amounts of water, hundreds of thousands of gallons a day, proposed to be taken out of East Fork Canyon Creek by Master Petroleum to process the ore is far too much that the stream system can accomodate.

The beauty and wonderful characteristcs of this area are too valuable as a place for people to learn about nature, and to restore and rejuvinate themselves by spending time here.

I want to be notified of any future notices regarding the Master Petroleum mining proposal for Canyon Creek.

Sincerely,

My Name

Email

My Address (Optional)

Eureka Times-Standard story May 22, 2004

Canyon Creek gold mining dredges up nuggets of concern

By John Driscoll The Times-Standard

Saturday, May 22, 2004 -

An open pit mining operation on a creek that flows out of the Trinity Alps Wilderness may yield significant gold -- but it has drawn the ire of residents and environmentalists in Trinity County.

Weaverville company Master Petroleum Inc., with origins in Texas, is looking to mine on about 22 acres just outside the wilderness, and within 100 feet of Canyon Creek. The operation proposes to take 1.4 million tons of gravel from pits over the next five to 25 years.

The operation would likely be visible from the road that leads to the Canyon Creek trailhead -- the most visited trail in the alps. Canyon Creek feeds the Trinity River, an important salmon river slowly being restored.

The company insists it'll do nothing to harm the creek, but residents worry it could become another disastrous mining operation like others in the county.

"It's just a really bad idea," said Drew Franklin, a Weaverville business owner and Junction City resident. "This would just be a disappointment every time you see it," he said.

The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing the proposal, but would be powerless to stop it. The 1872 Mining Act confers a right to enter public lands to search for minerals. It is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement, however, which will examine a range of alternatives for the project.

Master Petroleum geologist Cullen Thomas said buffers along the creek and along the road are intended to address aesthetic and environmental concerns. He said the company is going after a valuable commodity now experiencing a shortfall worldwide, and intends to perform only as much work as is needed to get the gold.

"We don't intend to tear up the world," Thomas said. "That's not our cup of tea at all."

The operation would occur in four stages and involve significant heavy equipment. D-7 and D-8 bulldozers, excavators, front-end loaders, backhoes, sluices and pumps would be used, and two ponds would be constructed.

Most of the site would be logged as well.

About 100,000 gallons of water per day would be taken from the Big East Fork of Canyon Creek for processing the gold-bearing placer gravels.

Master Petroleum first submitted the plan in 1998. In 2000, the company tested the area about nine miles north of Junction City for gold. And it's there.

But it requires that about 25 to 65 feet of gravel must be removed from the top of the pits to reach the last 10 feet of gold-rich deposits just above the bedrock.

Forest Service Resource Officer Michael Mitchell said the government can demand certain conditions are met, but has to, by law, process the request.

Mitchell said the placement of the mining pits -- some of which are above the 100-year flood line -- would be looked at very carefully. A bond to ensure the areas are put to bed and replanted is required.

What happens if there's a catastrophic failure of a pit or a major fuel spill? Mitchell was not sure if the Forest Service has the authority to impose a major bond to guard against such a possibility.

Naturally occurring mercury and arsenic sometimes comes along with mining operations, and warnings about mercury levels in certain fish are posted on Trinity Lake because the chemicals were dredged up by old mining operations.

Mitchell said it's likely state water quality officials have or will examine if there is potential for that at the Canyon Creek site.

The Forest Service is seeking public comment on the proposal until Aug. 26, and a decision document won't be available until probably the fall of 2005, Mitchell said.

Comments can be sent to Michael Mitchell, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, P.O. Box 1190, Weaverville, 96093.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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