November 21, 2017 
 Tuesday 
 
 

Forum
Topic:
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

       

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 By fredmcain

04/11/2013  5:02AM

I was absolutely ecstatic to learn about the Empire Mine’s adit project. I always felt like a major shortcoming of the Empire Mine State Park was the complete lack of an underground tour. So, using the Park Commission’s online contact form on their website, I requested information on the project of which I had known nothing about.
I asked them:

"> What is the latest status of the adit project and underground tour? Is
> that still on track? I know that California has suffered some rather
> devastating cuts in recent years.
>
> Regards,
> Fred M Cain,
> Topeka, Indiana"

To which they responded the next day:

"The Empire Mine Park Association, the non-profit for Empire Mine State Park is moving forward with the Adit project.
However it is still not open. "EMPA" is hoping to open in 2014 however there is no date set and work still remains to be done on the Adit.
Please check back towards the end of 2013.
Thank you,
Empire Mine Park Staff"

That sounded encouraging but after what I’ve heard about the condition of California’s coffers replied to their response and asked them if they were accepting donations to help with the work. I might’ve made a $500 contribution. Not a big help but it wouldn’t have hurt, either. They did not respond to the inquiry. That seems like a shame. I am learning that there are a lot of mining buffs in the country that might’ve been willing to help out. Seems to me like that’d be a good idea.

I have contributed to the "Save The Redwoods League" for years. The League buys properties with native Redwoods or Sequoia’s and then donates them to the Park Service. Couldn’t a similar thing be done with mines?

Unfortunately, I was reading over some of Michael Miller’s old posts on the Empire Mine and it sounds like he has some major concerns. One concern I have is that the new adit might come off too much as "fake". Indeed, in a sense it is since it is really not part of the original mine.

If I were emperor, this is what I’d do: Drain the mine! Then the first or second levels could be re-timbered and reinforced and made safe for tours. And put the wiring in the right place for cryin’ out loud. It wouldn’t hurt if actual mining were allowed to resume, either. But what could be done with all that ground water containing "deadly arsenic" and other "dangerous" toxins in it? If it were released into the river it would completely destroy modern day Sacramento as we know it and maybe most of the Bay Area as well. Ha, ha, ha, ha, forgive my cynicism.

Well, if the State Parks Commission won’t accept a donation for me then, well, hmmmmn, let’s see, maybe there is another area mine I can put money into! I suspect that a $600 tour in the Sixteen To One Mine would be far, far more realistic mining experience than the Empire Mine’s Adit Project.

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
 By fredmcain

04/01/2013  5:27AM

I can remember years ago - back in the 1980's, I think it was, - I flew out to California from back East to visit my parents. They took me to the Empire Mine. Was I ever excited and full of anticipation!

Sadly, after a tour of the grounds and the otherwise excellent museum, I realized there was no underground tour! Was I ever let down! What a rip-off, I thought to myself!

Has that changed? What is/was the "Empire Mine Adit Project"?

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
 By Michael Miller

01/21/2012  2:40PM

A recent discussion under Miscellaneous about how the California parks should be managed excited some of my aged brain cells on the subject to reconnect. The question is: Shall our public parks continue to be operated by government or shall they be turned over to private enterprises?

My experiences with the world famous Empire Mine in Grass Valley have helped me decide. If you want background, please read the topic, “Empire Strikes Back”, which began here on October 23, 2004. I am confident that a similar scenario is found throughout the Department of Parks agency (DPR) at other parks threatened with closure. I know that accountability and responsibility behaviors are seriously lacking throughout our public social affairs in both private and government entities, not by everyone but by too few. Following is a letter I wrote to the head of DPR.

My recommendation is for our parks to be managed by the government only if the governor is held accountable for the ineptness of each agency, including DPR, controlled by the Executive Branch of our trilateral democracy (Legislative and Judicial branches). The head of DPR, Ruth Coleman, was appointed by Governor Davis, retained by Governor Schwarzenegger and remains in power by Governor Brown. She is the problem surfacing right now because her two top people were political hacks and unable or unwilling to manage the people under them. Most of the DPR employees I met during the Empire Adit Project seemed scared about keeping their job. Too many were counting down to retirement to “make waves”. California has suffered for their neglect. The elephant in the room is: how do we return accountability and responsibility to California’s bureaucracy?



July 11, 2006
Ruth G. Coleman, Director
Department of Parks and Recreation



Dear Ruth Coleman,

On several occasions over the past two years, I have written a letter directly to you instead of to Parks or other named Park employees. The time has come again. The issues before us are well beyond the responsibilities of the Project Manager and his immediate superiors, the Project Engineer, the Construction Manager, the Project Electrical Engineer and the Sector Superintendent. The outcome of this project and the decision on how to proceed rests with you and your top administrative employees.

It became absolutely evident to me yesterday that continuing with the electrical part of this project should stop. The plans are ill conceived. We have tried to correct the errors or shortcomings. They do not have a quick fix or can be successfully modified to construct. Morning Glory recommends that all electrical work be stopped immediately. Sadly, everyone may realize this but no one has the position to act except you.

Ron Munson made an observation yesterday that cemented my festering concerns that further work as planned or modified was in the best interest of Parks, the Empire Mine Project or the public or even feasible. Continuing may even be an illegal act. The electrical wires feeding into the mine did not meet State or NEC regulations as drawn. With more effort than should have been necessary to correct the illegal drawings, an alternative was prepared. One large electrical conduit was deleted and the electrical runs were put overhead in separate conduit. Mr. Munson was the first to recognize that the loss of about six inches of head room throughout the length of the adit conflicts with the ADA requirements of headroom. (The rest of us missed this important observation.) This places the project out of State compliance, according to State regulations. (The decrease also affects the proposed passenger car sizing.)

In May ADA headroom was a topic of discussion in the old stope, which connects the adit to the mine shaft. Due to the concern over ground support, additional steel lagging was ordered in this area. State employees voiced the necessity to increase the headroom because of the change order. It has been a laborious activity to accomplish. No one, however, realized that the change order for the electrical conduit also dropped the headroom by six inches, which now is out of compliance with ADA. There is a gross inconsistency in thought, planning and execution resulting from the inadequate electrical plans, and it does not end with this one example.

Why was all this not pointed out sooner as required by the contract? Bits and pieces were which brings me to the realization and necessity of writing you. The electrical project has reached critical mass, whereby proceeding will be very expensive to the State. I hired two of the best electrical professionals as consultants in order to address the electrical deficiencies in the drawings. Chase Engineering is well known in Sacramento as a firm of the highest quality of work. Others have told me that it is the best electrical engineering firm in Sacramento with extensive government experience. Between Chase Engineering and the other consultant, Tom Fasoletti, the expense of fixing the drawing and bringing them into legal compliance has cost $20,000. And this is only the beginning, if we are to do the State’s work of preparing the electrical drawings. Other key issues remain that should have been presented prior to advertising for bid, such as voltages and line loss. Since wood was replaced with steel, construction options changed. The estimate for increased costs to the State by my consultants right now is $325,000 to $400,000. It is not possible to determine the exact cost until Parks makes massive clarifications. It is prudent to evaluate where we are now that the adit is completed before patching a bunch of individual “solutions” together. This project deserves more than this.

Another aspect of the Empire Mine Project that is very important to the public as well as me is the end result of the job. Over eighteen years of interest precede us. Our legacy is what we leave for the public to enjoy. I am convinced that the present electrical concept conflicts with the written objectives that are recorded in the 1990’s reports. Park personnel have raised CEQA as a reason not to change a minor improvement in the plans. I found this disingenuous since I served as a Sierra County Planning Commissioner for twelve years and Chairman for four. We implemented CEQA regularly and became quite familiar with its legalities. With the electrical a very real CEQA concern exists. The electrical system is not minor. By moving the electrical from the floor to the ceiling we have done more than threaten ADA compliance. We have destroyed the mine experience as we did in other areas. This electrical plan reduces the legitimacy of the project. Some Park people refer to this as aesthetics. It is more than aesthetics. It is the only reason for conceiving the project and spending $2 million or more of public money. Please honor my recommendation: none in the non-government sector of society would continue constructing an ill-conceived plan, especially when other options exist. How can Parks?

You should also be informed that very serious differences exist between the Empire Mine sector and the Sacramento office about the project. The project has suffered because of this senseless behavior, one that appears to be well known yet characterized as, “Oh well that is how it is. It has been this way and will continue.” Nonsense. The public does not condone this behavior by government when the public suffers and I do not choose to contribute to it any more with this project. I believe that present electrical construction threatens potential public safety more than the effort and expense we undertook with ground support.

I admit to you that I was a virgin regarding working on a government contract but have expertise in underground construction, safety of employees and the public, historical perspective particular to this project and more. Because of my unbending desire to make the Empire Mine State Park a great addition to California, my crew has worked through many obstacles. I can only hope that somewhere in this letter you will discover the merits and respond accordingly. The State has many good people who are working on this project. I point a finger at no one; however collectively the project has lost all credibility because of some sociological factor foreign to me. The Project must be reviewed and a sensible plan for operating must be prepared before further construction (other than the additional ground support). I have only touched the surface in this letter and remain at your service to review or respond.


Sincerely yours,

Morning Glory Gold Mines by
Michael Meister Miller
 By Michael Miller

10/05/2006  8:19PM

The Empire Mine Adit Project is completed (small punch list to do). Mark October 5, 2006, as the date of the final inspection. I am very proud of the finished project. Congratulations to all the miners who worked at the site. Congratulations to my suppliers who knew mining in downtown Grass Valley was a unique undertaking.

The foundation (a steel supported tunnel) for the Department of Parks and Recreation to open for the public is rock solid. The adit will be accessible for a hundred years and more. For me, it was an exhausting project. It was a learning experience, one that I really did not need, or maybe I did.

It was refreshing to work with a stream of revenue, so I could do some financial planning and budgeting. Years ago, the Sixteen to One Board of Directors [as good a board as any gold mining company in the world: Dick Sorlien (the best Philadelphia lawyer and gold advocate around), Charlie Brown (read his bio on this web site), Lee Erdahl (practical and wise from serving as officers and directors on major public mining and investment companies), others as well] worked to teach me to become a better President. For some time they asked for a budget. We tried to give it to them; however, when you do not know what your gold production will be and you do not know how much it will sell for, it is hard to budget expenses. Finally, everyone conceded that a high-grade gold mine operation like ours is impossible to make long-term budgets. I liked knowing how much money I had to build a project…..think Red Star Shaft.

Two years of completing a contract for the State of California in such a precarious job as digging up the earth taught me the value of having a predictable source of cash to spend. Perhaps people with disposable cash and have an interest in what we want to accomplish in Alleghany, will believe that I can handle a budget and get the job done. Nothing will be as difficult as doing the Empire project. If this becomes one of the benefits of the Empire Mine, it will be frosting on a very good cake.

I just got off the phone from a friend, shareholder, believer and close follower of the chain of events from the first thought of bidding the job to the final inspection. We concluded it was worthwhile.

Yes, I learned a lot about things maybe I need not know: government bureaucracy, the California agency known as Department of Parks and Recreation, California agency known as Department of Toxic Waste, California agency known as Department of Water Resources and without a doubt human behavior. I met some very competent people. I worked with some people I really liked. I worked with some people who are taking public money and should be fired or terminated from continuing to drink at the public trough.

Let’s go get some gold.
 By Michael Miller

08/18/2005  9:43PM

“They know not what they are doing. They know not the evidence and real situation of the work they are charged to help become reality.”

Parks had a large staff telephone conference on August 17, 2005, but none in attendance understood the ground. It is sad. Individually these men and women are sincere and well intended. Collectively they cannot accept responsibility, cannot solve or even participate in meaningful discussions about the underground adit project, and the opinions expressed in this conference were shallower than adit they are charged to construct. It is sad, and I cannot help but wonder how California has turned this agency into mush. I do have an opinion. My opinion is based on observing the Empire Mine Adit Project over eighteen years from the perspective of one who accepts responsibility, accountability, and deals with the difficult job of executing underground projects. For this group of people to instruct its project manager to draft this letter, which says my crew is working in unsafe conditions is, well, you just go back and think about the Sixteen to One and all the miners over the years and the mine management and you finish the sentence.
Paragraph 1. The contract places safety in the hands of the contractor. Our crew is working safely; just ask them. Just look at all the supplies, equipment and talent at the site. The miners have not missed a day. They know the ground better than they know their wives and girlfriends.
Paragraph 2. The statement that MGGM ignored warnings is untrue and not supported by any evidence. It is an opinion and not a very good one.
Paragraph 3. The miners probed the floor and the ribs prior to drilling out each round. There was no indication that old working existed until after the blast revealed the old workings. The muck naturally filled the hole beneath the floor because of gravity. It is impossible to determine the extent of old workings until someone can see them. Standing on the sidelines and scratching our balls, will reveal nothing about old workings. Oh, yes, the Project Engineer (referenced below) has been to the site once this year and it was last Thursday. The miners drill, load, shoot and muck each foot of this adit. Who would you trust? Oh, one more thing. This crew has 110 years of mining experience in California’s Northern Mines. The Project Engineer sits in his office in Sacramento with no mining experience at the Empire. By the way, he is a nice guy, but fearful of his job. His supervisors know less than he does about the ground and safety.
Yesterday, I submitted a solution, which would provide everyone with additional data to evaluate the sub floor and extent of the old workings. What Parks is really concerned about has nothing to do with our miners’ safety. The plans are sadly flawed, the business plan is impractical and like a good bureaucrat, Parks continue its attempt to shift the blame away from itself. Oh, I almost forgot. It really helps the blame game to draw in more agencies. The best example of this can be found in Parks handling the infamous “toxic” issue awhile back.
Work was progressing very well. We went to two shifts to make up some lost time. The old workings add great interest to the future appeal of the project. We are less than two hundred feet from breaking into the old workings leading to the shaft. This crew of professional miners and its leadership are safely in control of the project. Solutions for public safety would be recommended once the extent of the situation is known. Speculation is for gamblers. We are not gamblers.
What have the people done to its governments to make them so reactionary (and without probable cause)?




State of California · The Resources Agency Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor
DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION · 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 500 · Sacramento, CA 95814 Ruth G. Coleman, Director


August 18, 2005



Michael Miller
Morning Glory Gold Mines
P.O. Box M
Alleghany, CA 95910


Re: Suspension of Work
Empire Mine SHP – Public Underground Tour

Dear Michael:

As we discussed in our telephone conversation yesterday, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) suspended construction on this Project due to numerous safety concerns that must be resolved before Work can continue, as follows:

1. In accordance with Specification 02265-3.1B, direction for the amount and type of ground support shall be provided by the Contractor’s Registered Rock Mechanics Engineer. Since the installation of steel sets ended at approximately Station 4+07, Morning Glory Gold Mines (MGGM) has been excavating the adit tunnel without an approved ground support design. This condition has continued to the current adit face at approximately Station 5+50, despite repeated requests from DPR for the ground support design since on or before July 5, 2005.

2. As noted in his Daily Reports, the Project Inspector informed MGGM since early August that the rock is structurally very poor and should be supported by steel sets. MGGM has ignored his warnings and moved forward with virtually no ground support on MGGM’s opinion that the miners are safe. Due to this difference of opinion between mining professionals, with no ground support design to support MGGM’s assertions, DPR was forced to request an inspection and written determination from Cal-OSHA regarding the working conditions in the adit tunnel.

3. MGGM uncovered an existing hole under the adit tunnel floor on August 4th at Station 4+86. Rather than submit an RFI to request resolution for this unforeseen condition, MGGM filled the hole with mine waste rock and continued forward. After MGGM uncovered another hole on August 12th at Station 5+37, it appears that an existing stope runs under the adit tunnel floor. If the depth of rock between the adit tunnel floor and the existing stope is not sufficiently thick, the Project Engineer is concerned that the adit tunnel floor could collapse into the existing stope.


Until (1) a ground support design by a qualified engineer is received by MGGM and approved by DPR, (2) a written determination is received by Cal-OSHA approving MGGM’s lack of ground support, and (3) the adit tunnel floor is confirmed as structurally sound, the work cannot resume.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at (916) 445-8739.

Sincerely,

Original Signed By:

Phil Hock
State’s Representative


cc: Steve Lehman, Deputy Director
Kathy Amann, NSC Manager
Ron Birkhead, CM Supervisor
Michael Romo, Project Manager
Bruno Renss, Project Engineer
David Sollenberger, Supervising Engineer
Ron Munson, Park Superintendent
Karl Knapp, District Maintenance Chief
Steve Moses, District Maintenance Supervisor
Charlie Schultz, Project Inspector
 By Michael Miller

08/18/2005  8:41PM

The exciting possibility of including a 100 year old mine working into the public educational tour of the famous Empire Mine (as I related
to the career bureaucrats in Sacramento responsible for protecting, preserving and enhancing our historic culture via publicly funded
State Parks) triggered the following response.

State of California · The Resources Agency Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor
DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION · 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 500 · Sacramento, CA 95814 Ruth G. Coleman, Director


August 16, 2005

Michael Miller
Morning Glory Gold Mines
P.O. Box M
Alleghany, CA 95910

Re: Empire Mine SHP – Public Underground Tour

Dear Michael:

A number of issues have arisen on this Project involving previously unforeseen site conditions that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) must review and analyze before work can continue. Consequently, Morning Glory Gold Mines is hereby directed to immediately suspend all work activities on the Project until further notice. DPR anticipates that a resolution may be available by the end of next week.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at (916) 445-8739.

Sincerely,

Original Signed By:

State’s Representative

cc: Steve Lehman, Deputy Director
Kathy Amann, NSC Manager
Ron Birkhead, CM Supervisor
Michael Romo, Project Manager
Bruno Renss, Project Engineer
David Sollenberger, Supervising Engineer
Ron Munson, Park Superintendent
Karl Knapp, District Maintenance Chief
Steve Moses, District Maintenance Supervisor
Charlie Schultz, Project Inspector
 By Michael Miller

08/09/2005  4:33PM

To Project Manager:
Phil, if this were not worthy of careful consideration, I would not have made the following recommendation. This will be a defining moment for the project. MMM

OLD WORKINGS

Old workings were uncovered during normal work in the adit about 500 feet from the portal. The following is a description based upon the initial first hand observations of the miners.

For purposes of orientation, imagine you are standing in the adit, looking at the face of the level. A hole of undetermined size appeared across the tunnel and seemed to extend in both directions beyond and below the solid rock walls. Air is flowing into the new workings from the newly discovered old workings. What is going on?

Miners’ speculations: A raise was driven from an elevation lower than where you are standing. To your left appears to be the highest direction of old workings. To your right there appears to be the largest excavation. This work is called a “stope”. A stope is an excavation from which ore has been removed in a series of steps. It is usually applied to highly inclined or vertical veins, as is the case at the Empire. The term stoping is loosely applied to any subterranean extraction of ore except that which is incidentally performed in sinking shafts and in driving levels.

For the purpose of advancing the face, all safety concerns to the miners have been employed. The condition of the old workings in relationship to the tunnel will require additional work before I am comfortable that the public will be safe. The reason that it is safe for the miners is that they are working the area, are familiar with any subtle changes and are qualified to immediately deal with any issues. The old workings have caused additional and unplanned costs that have not been determined at this time.

This project and its purpose have well stated goals. I recommend that the discovery of these particular workings has great benefit to the public and including them in the project has great merit. This is something that the Empire Mine Park Association may fund if Parks does not have money to do so. My opinion is this unexpected situation by far creates a better project. From the miners’ perspective (we have discussed this at the site) opening it up for viewing with lights could rival seeing the shaft from the new level. The public can already view the shaft from above so the shaft never was intended to be the main attraction. For the public to get the feel, understanding and appreciation of mining at the Empire has been a stated goal. By including the view of an actual stope, the project will gain an historic insight heretofore unavailable. Please ask Parks to give me some direction on this important opportunity. I have no interest in chasing unattainable improvements in the overall design. Safety concerns will not be a meaningful issue because the adit will be constructed safety with or without including the old workings.
 By Rick

08/03/2005  9:54PM

Yes, the miners today mucking dirt in the Empire, and those mucking rock in the Sixteen to One, are to be applauded for recognizing "dirt" from dirt. One goes in a pile, the other in jail.
 By Michael Miller

08/02/2005  10:33PM

It’s like digging in dirt.

For anyone who has looked at the pile of waste from the mine, the color and texture of the material, nature is unpredictable These miners worked hard to move from dirt to rock and hard rock as they drove the adit. We are Sierra Nevada hard rock miners and mostly familiar with the mines of California’s northern mines. Two of the greatest are only a few miles apart but thousands of feet elevation separates their portals: Empire mine and Sixteen to One mine. The Empire is the greater of the two and knowledgeable historians familiar with the nuances of a running mine will debate the only rival for number one in American is Homestake in Lead, South Dakota.

This story, however, is about current affairs, not history. Both the Empire and Homestake died, out of business, gone from the American landscape. The Empire gave up in 1956; the Homestake just a few years ago. One California mine, which ranks at the top of its class is Sixteen to One. Its vein system and the Empire are related but with very pronounced differences. The gold in its veins is so concentrated that it is measured in ounces in pounds (high grade). By today’s standards the Empire would be high grade but it pales with the heavy concentrations of the Alleghany Mining District

When miners from Alleghany (home of Original Sixteen to One Mine, Inc., owner of the Sixteen to One mine), attacked the Empire last year, mining dirt was never a thought. A sole proprietorship decided that the Empire deserved only local miners to churn its earth, miners with a connection to mining in the northern mines. That is how it turned out.

The only geologist with California registration who visited the work in progress at the Empire and also is intimately familiar (published) in Alleghany inspected the new adit last week. It looks like a mine working, smells like one and feels like one. He along with a long time northern miner, owner and operator also praised the work and added that it is unlikely that any other crew would have gotten through the serious problems of dirt.


To be continued.......
 By Michael Miller

06/18/2005  12:19AM

The following was sent to State Parks. Its here because of questions and blank looks regarding the problems of mining dirt verses hard rock.(Prior post). Dirt and shooting concrete against a wire mesh is one way to efficiently mine through dirt. It was an option. I had an expensive machine at the portal that we had experimented with at the Sixteen to One mine. We fired it up and shot a little as we turned under. We also installed crown bars for workers safety. I made a decision to mine consistent with the historical perspective of the park and the region. A large part of a mine experience is the smell. Just ask a Sierra Nevada miner. The experience is what the intentions of some locals brought before the Park as an educational idea eighteen years ago.

The same cannot be said for the mines around the world running of underground diesel power. Those mines where it was tried have failed to hold the ground or make a profit. The Empire adit could have been driven either way, according to the specifications.


Subsurface conditions encountered during construction have restricted the advancement estimated for the following reasons:
1. Drill holes are collapsing after drilling is completed. This requires time to blow out or clean the holes before loading with explosives. If the drill hole cannot be cleaned, a new hole must be drilled.

2. The uneven material has collapsed on the drill steel during drilling, resulting in the steel becoming stuck in the hole. Solutions are to first attempt to remove the drill steel. Other solutions are to cut the steel, leave the steel and drill a new hole, use other drill steel and drill bits. All have been implemented.

3. The ground is so unpredictable in its consistency from foot to foot that no reliable drill pattern has been developed to control the break. For example, closer to the brow of the adit, four hole broke five feet after barring down the loose rock. Veins of competent rock are surrounded with mud and clay of varying thickness and size. Many times the face has shown one type of material but beyond the face the material changes in its composition. This has caused delays.

4. The amount of tonnage broken has been inconsistent, due to the wide range of weathering, strength, fracturing and the rock type. Many times the round will over break. The miners are shrinking the drill pattern to minimize this unwanted affect. Several times the rock has under broken, and the miners must bar down and then return to the face to drill out additional rock to install the ground support.

5. The unusual wet winter has caused compressed air driven equipment all over California to malfunction. IR dealers will verify that water build up in the air lines has been a problem. Since the drilling and mucking are performed by air equipment, the miners have lost time due to slowed production.

6. More time used to dump cars due to mud sticking in the bottom.

7. Drill steel water hole plugs with dirt.

8. Pour concrete in hitches.

This is not an all inclusive list of the reasons for progress being slower that anticipated. Of all the unanticipated problems, the only one not likely to occur again is the problem with water in the air lines.
March

Today we are at 0.00 plus 380 feet. The ground continues its unpredictability with the drill log, on which all bids were calculated. Bid predators will testify the need to build a dollar amount for the “unknowable of the ground” above the regular percentage estimated on the cost. For workers safety (nothing for the ultimate public adit drifter) we repeated the crown bars installation necessary at the portal. The slip faults between the clay, dirt and the occasional chunks of rock turned horizontal along with the vertical dip we were experiencing twenty feet ago. Barring down becomes especially interesting for the guys at the face in these conditions. Chunks will fall out without a sound or many times no warning. Next to the high dangers of haulage, getting “slabbed” by debris from the above is a miner’s serious concern.
 By Michael Miller

06/11/2005  3:35PM

The adit project has cycled into a routine, not the routine anyone expected because of the ground. Years ago a few drill holes were placed along the proposed strike of the new adit. Representations were drawn from the limited core samples and plans were drawn. Budgets and time lines were estimated, which have turned out to be wrong. Progress is hampered due to the dirt like consistency of the ground. The adit is over 368 feet (distance is 770 feet to intersect the Empire shaft). After an aggressive campaign we prevailed in replacing timber sets with steel sets. The timber specifications called for pressure treated wood. Even though chemically treated wood last longer than non-treated wood, it would decay and cause serious problems in the future for the park. The steel is actually more historically correct than chemically treated wood, but it was a battle to get approval for the change.

Heavy rain has slowed progress. The crew, however, has not missed a day no matter what the weather conditions. Miners are used to working in the wet and the mud. I have kept a very low profile with the work we have undertaken. No press. There were so many ridiculous ideas propagated by people, which were upsetting our plans that the down side of informing the public about this wonderful mining operation taking place in the heart of Grass Valley seemed inadvisable. The adit looks great and everyone is proud and pleased to be a part of mining the Empire.

The thirty-pound rail and 6 by 8 track ties are way over kill. The twenty-four gage, however, is something that is new to us appeals to me. Everything in Alleghany is eighteen gage. When we lay out the new Red Star mine in Alleghany, it will be with twenty-four-gage track. Other than being months behind the initial finish date, life at the Empire mine is pretty good these days. We are getting a round in each day. When the ground finally turns to solid rock, we will increase the length of each round. The steel sets are placed on four foot six inch centers so that is the depth of drilling. Our mantra is: where’s the rock!
 By Robert P. Hudson

05/19/2005  8:53PM

Michael, How are things going at the empire? Is the project stalled or are you drilling and blasting? My gandfather worked at the Empire complex over many years, hence my interest.
 By Rick

01/21/2005  8:21PM

The Department of Toxic Substances needs to look in the mirror. The Executive branch of our California State government needs to go look at their reflection and cut them off from their pig-trough.

Yes, Mike, we are all individuals but unfortunately by default find ourselves "defended" by public idiot "Departments" who have yet to have their butts called on the carpet. And to think we as private-sector taxpayers (individual and corporate) pay their way just rakes my you-know-what sideways.

This is why I pose the issue. The Executive Branch you mention is the very office of the Governor, and I believe some heads should roll and so might he as well, if he knew that "Departments" yet unexposed, existing on the public dole were standing around at (ironically, a State Park renovation) "suggesting" a possible problem..."we'll find one because that's our job".....

Inevitably, public 'servants' will dream up "concerns"...this is their job description. Well heck, I have "concerns" that tomorrow I'll wake up alive, but I'll be damned if a bunch of your money or anyone else's should be spent to worry about it. I'm resposible for myself, as is any other private sector entity, as it should be.

Since when is a "concern" a "fact" worth investigating? Since when did a "concern" become an allegation and therefore an infraction and therefore worthy of a Commission and then worthy of a public funding project worthy of a bunch of idiots standing around dreaming up problems, when if they just looked in the mirror, they'd realize they're cutting off their own nose despite their face?

Idiocy worth shutting down. Top down.

Yes, Mike, Bob Shoemaker's article points directly to this point. It should be published front page for our governor to read while he ponders why private enterprise hits the wall.
 By Big R

01/21/2005  10:01AM

Just shows how STUPID the people of California really are. They worry about toxic chemicals and elements at the Empire mine that don't exist, yet they continue to build on an active volcano at Mammoth, Calif. Several geologists and their families have moved out of Bishop knowing that this will be a bigger disaster than the tsunami. If you don't believe this, just check the sismograph at the University of Nevada.
 By Oak

01/21/2005  7:16AM

If the bureaucrats are declaring that the base rock coming out of the Empire is toxic, wouldn't logic dictate that all the rock dug from anywhere and everywhere is potentially toxic also, including road cuts on all roads and highways? Going further does that mean that all our roads and highways are potential superfund sites and need to be remediated - but what would you remediate with - the implication from the little minds is that all rock fill is toxic - therefore we would have to shut down all our roads. This is friggin nuts - the bureaucratic world keeps getting bigger, and to justify their existence, they continue to meddle in all our lives and screw things up by adding on more layers. The only way to end it, is to privatize the service functions of government and take it out of the hands of the lifers.
 By Michael Miller

01/20/2005  9:55PM

Rick, I don’t know the answer, but let me tell you the latest. Remember, the following account is the position of California’s public servants. There is a duty and an obligation for all public employees act in the interests of the public. Since I undertook this project to build the Empire Adit, an historically important tribute to the Sierra Nevada gold miners, there has been a steady barrage of interferences. This is a publicly owned park and the project is financed by a ballot measure (Prop Two). I believe that our crew also has a fiduciary duty of performance and execution, as do those public servants who get a regular paycheck. Here is the latest:

In a meeting in Sacramento, someone either in the Department of Parks and Recreation or the Department of Toxic Substances raised a concern that the base rock in the park is toxic. Because of this allegation or concern, the rock now has to be removed and stock piled away from the mining operation. I asked, “What is the toxic matter?” Cyanide was the answer. I said impossible. Cyanide loses its toxicity over time in the sunlight and there are no reports that the native rock contains harmful levels of cyanide. (There were seven State employees standing at the construction site when we were having this conversation). Someone said, “Well it must be arsenic.” No, I replied. Maybe if we cross cut a mineralized quartz vein there could be elevated levels of arsenic, but in most cases it will not be the toxic arsenic we would encounter. Someone then said, “It must be lead.” I was speechless at this point.

All of these people are reasonable and intelligent; however as a flock or under the influence of other bureaucrats, they act recklessly and against the public’s interests. Someone must challenge the authenticity of these off hand and irresponsible opinions. There is a duty to all Californians to do so. If it is true that the waste rock of the Empire Mine is toxic, the park must be closed down. It is a hazard to the public! Mister Bourn (the old owner and operator) and all the management of this great mining venture used waste rock throughout the construction of buildings, walls and walkways. All of Grass Valley and Nevada City embrace waste rock under their roads. What has happened to our society? Does anyone have an answer? Chicken Little is alive and well.

I do not like battles or relish confrontation; however, the park, like a woman, is not a little bit pregnant. The earth has not been toxic to man or other creatures playing on its surface. All life is formed from its minerals. Yes, Rick, California may have the leadership to right a listing ship, but our governor is only one man. It takes you and me and all the others who recognize the cost of “uninsightful” thinking. If you have not read Bob Shoemaker’s article under news, go read it. Bob is a seasoned expert, whose opinion should carry more weight that most. There is only so much money to go around and Californians must ask questions about the value we receive for the cost of someone’s opinion. The Empire Mine is only one small example.

The Empire Mine is a worthwhile project in theory. The design has been compromised and the bureaucrats (not all of them, and in fact only a few) are screwing it up. In my business, when I make a mistake, I want someone to tell me and help me to correct it. I do not cover it up. I wish the same could be said for public servants. I am learning that upper management may be one reason why middle management appears so misdirected. Remember, career bureaucrats are responsible to the executive branch, not the legislative or judicial branches. Too many times people seek redress from the politician. They look to the wrong source because it is so darn hard to reach the upper echelons of the executive branch.

In spite of this latest episode, all is well, but it could be a lot better. Our Alleghany miners are sacking gold in two headings. Nothing big, but we have the scent and are on the trail. My Empire miners continue to break rock in the heart of Grass Valley even as a relentless opposition continues to rain down from somewhere.
 By Rick

01/20/2005  7:47PM

My heart tells me that breaking rock will ultimately overcome the crap of obstruction, whether it's up at OAu or down there in Nevada City where there seems to be an endless display of paper and lack of scissors, I'm stuck a bit between wanting to re-direct our eneregy to succeed from self-achievement, all alone from within the private sector, to also (rather than instead) include the potential positive impact of our cut-the-crap governor, should we make a little noise.

When I heard that Mike had to temporarily shut down the adit rehab project at the Empire because someone complained of the lack of ventilation...get this, within twenty feet of the open sky, I pose these questions:

Do we need to go to the top, yet? Should we? At what point do we engage the sitting governator to synergistic ends? (Can't you just see Arnold at the end of the drill, after spouting the final words, "Let them break rock.")

I'm seriously torn here, because naturally I think it could/would happen, since the "$&#*&8" is so deep and the current directive of Gov. Arnold is to cut the fat and engage private-sector success, let alone the history of how and why it got this far. But more importantly, I'm not sure it's time to engage the 'disconnect' I know Mike has been fighting so dilligently for; and fighting because he's right.

Hey you guys, chime in.
 By Michael Miller

01/05/2005  12:05AM

When I started this new topic, Empire Strikes Back, I really was not sure why. There are some mining people who I know that check the Forum for news and are interested and get a kick out of this event. Thanks for the continued interest in our great profession. Hard rock underground gold miners you are, just like me. Also historians of early California history or those with roots in the development of California in its infancy, it was also for you, so I could keep you abreast of events. And there are bunches of you that I have never met. Maybe you are not interested in high-grade gold mining, but you connect with this subject. The Empire Mine is the deepest hole on the Pacific coast. Miners know more than anyone else just what it is like to be working so far beneath the sky. Historians know more as well.

Miners are just as nutty in their trade as anyone else. But when you are confronting the gravitational and geological influences of the earth and your life depends on it, miners can get a little testy over “chicken little” performances by others. So here is an update from Tuesday’s bi –monthly meeting at the Empire Mine that is a regular event with our Californian public servants.

Boy is this a challenge to write. Who may ever see these words? …..Yes, from CDAA followers to California employees to friends and foes it matters little. This contract to break rock at the Empire will go forward. Yes, I would like your help to correct and improve this project. There are so many things wrong with the current position of Department of Parks and Recreation(DPR). Let’s improve the project instead of protecting the past.

When I submitted an RFI of engineering drawings (encouraged by DPR) to reduce the rail size from 30 pound to 20 pound, I was backstabbed, which is always worse than rejection. Later when I questioned the size and spacing of the track ties in another RFI, my opinions were partially rejected. Now I am assaulting the method of ground support in another RFI. This subject must be accepted even though there are differing opinions. The ultimate fate of the project depends on it. It appears that people who never worked in the hard rock mines of the Sierra may oversee the opinions of miners who have drilled, blasted, mucked and supported it. That is okay, but should their opinions overrule the miners? Let’s hope not. I represent the view of Sierra miners and am comfortable that these views of how to build this public adit are the only correct ones. Every cold, wet and tired miner who has dragged himself out of a Sierra mine has an interest in the outcome of this work. He has faced the mental anguish of putting aside every personal concern to protect the project, the mine. Nature demands that you pay attention to her as you rip into the earth. There is no other way to survive.

There were six DPR employees who met at the site to review the status of erosion pollution and liability today. A call had gone in to Ruth Coleman, the acting head of the California Resources Agency, about pollution originating from the adit project. She called for a State hydrologist, who drove down from Lake Tahoe for an assessment. She was very understanding and able to articulate her reasons for being at this site. Last Thursday a DPR employee raised a question about brown water. He saw some during the heavy storm and complained to Sacramento. Why?

What we are experiencing at the Empire Mine Adit project is a microcosm of what has happened to our government and business. The concerns were not about the stated brown water and any deleterious consequences of it entering the watercourses. The concerns are for someone filing a lawsuit alleging that DPR was not properly taking care of its business. Opinions from people, well meaning or not, are just that.
 By Michael Miller

12/21/2004  11:20PM

Hi Dick,
I’m up awfully late but felt it was a good time to answer your question. Our public guardians (California public servants and usually great people) may have properly reacted to the threat of lawsuit by a private non-government Californian, just like you and me. That is one way to judge what happened at the Empire Mine the past 30 plus days. I can defend the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) order, which ordered us to quit work; however we were in the timely and important task of locking the loose rock above the adit with concrete and had to immediately stop our work. They (DPR), on the other hand (or maybe just a he or a she), reacted in a recklessly safe way. Recklessly safe is not always best. In this case it was the wrong decision. I can also challenge the decision to stop construction on the merits of such a specious threat.

The basis for stopping mining was grounded in a storm water and erosion pollution prevention controls. A non-profit California Corporation expressed a belief and threatened to sue California, naming DPR as defendant. It was a specious claim and should have been answered with a letter informing the non-profit corporation that further reckless actions will cost California money and not give its residents a single benefit. The California Attorney General should have been advised that legal extortion was being perpetrated on Californians and his services were needed to protect the California taxpayers as well as punish the rogue extortionists, terrorists to some.

It is not anything new.

Today was a long day and I just returned to Alleghany. I left at 6am to pick up an hydraulic pump for the backhoe, which quit yesterday. The Empire project is important to all of the miners. We recognize the human spirit that drove down over 11,000 feet below the surface of the Sierra Nevada. The Empire Mine and Homestake Mine are America’s premiere gold mines. It is arguable which one should be ranked number one. You are a good historian. Which is America’s best?
 By Dick Davis

12/19/2004  10:49PM

Mining has resumed after a month long stop order issued by the State.

Why was a stop order issued?

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