On October 30, 2002 local radio station KNCO interviewed Michael Miller.
KNCO INTERVIEW WITH MIKE MILLER
Rita Stevens: The Sixteen to one mine is located in Alleghany in nearby Sierra County. It is the oldest mining company in America. About two years ago a mining accident resulted in the death of miner Mark Fussell. And situations at the mine have not been the same since. Mike Miller is President and Director of the Sixteen to one mine and joins us by telephone for an update this morning. Mike, thanks for being with us.
MMM: Good morning Rita
Rita: So, I hope I have described the situation correctly. I guess first of all though give us some background about the accident that happened two years ago.
MM: Well, the accident happened in the mine November 6, 2000, when our friend and fellow miner Mark Fusssell made a mistake in his heading and it basically cost him his life. As you said, things havenít been the same since then. Itís been the first death in the mine in modern times with a death in 1950. Itís something that none of us had experienced before and itís a tragedy that everyone will live with for the rest of their lives.
Rita: Well now, you and Mine Manager Jonathan Farrell have both been formally charged with felony responsibility for the death.
MMM: Yeah, this came out of the blue, about, oh in July of this year. Thereís a whole administrative process for handling citations and regulations for CAL-OSHA and also for MSHA. I think everybody recognizes throughout the country that mining is a very dangerous occupation. A law was passed in 1977 to start a process where the government would send in inspectors to help with the mine and their mine plans and safety programs. Thereís a whole processÖa citation is an allegation, so if thereís a question about the validity of that citation thereís an administrative process that you go through and have a hearing. We were all surprised because we were never given that opportunity through due process. We just, we had never even had, itís like a ticket, we never had a chance to talk about the specifics of that situation before some criminal charges were brought out by a kinda strange organization called the California District Attorneys Association out of Sacramento.
Rita: Now that is a private organizationÖ What, contracted to the California Department of Labor relations?
MMM: Thatís true.
MMM: It surprised us. With a name like that you would think itís government, but they are employees of a non-profit association that actually was formed in the 1970ís for political lobbying. They approached the Department of Industrial relations with a concept of going into rural counties which, certainly Sierra County is and by definition so is Nevada County. So, I think this issue has some pertinence to the listenerís as well. They define a rural county as a county under 400,000 population. They are supposed to come in at the invitation of a DA, but our situation up here is that weíve had a defacto DA since well for about the last 6 months, since she was voted out of office in March. In her defense, she didnít invite these people in. They prepared the prosecution and then served us with papers. We thought we were drawn into a very strange process. We were actually booked and arrested. We were starting the process for a preliminary hearing when out the blue came this idea that the CDAA lawyers decided to pre-empt the preliminary hearing by asking for a Grand Jury investigation.
Rita: and has the Grand Jury concluded their investigation?
MMM: Well, I got a phone call yesterday that they had and they determined that there were criminal, - well I havenít seen it yet so Iím a little in the dark, but I was told that they have concluded that on the testimony that they received there is cause for a complaint. We find it kind-a odd because it actuallyÖ we didnít get to have an attorney or present any evidence. So itís a strange situation and a move that CDAA has attempted to shift the responsibility of itself to follow the Rules of Conduct set forth by the California State Bar and bring in someone else to protect them. This is what people that have looked into it feelÖ that its kind of a political move.
Rita: Well, meanwhile I guess things are kind-a dragging on for you. Youíre trying to run a business, youíre trying to run a mine.
MMM: Well itís trueÖthe mine itself is what is at question and thereís been various people that have looked at the interferences that we have had over the last four to five years from these different regulatory agencies, and they are specious. There was no science to the situation with the water, that popped around for a while. There was no justification three to four years ago, for a concept of no second exit. Now this one just came out of the blue and some people are wondering why we are receiving so much of this attention from these government people. I donít even know. I have no idea. Iím a great admirer of the American judicial system, and Iím really concerned about the contemporary execution of the judicial practice.
Rita: Is the mine in operation now? Are you able to continue mining?
MMM: Yeah. You know the history of the mine. So many people have moved into our area, Nevada County and some up here in Sierra County as well, OK they donít understand that just about 35 Ė 40 miles from where you are is one of the worlds richest concentrations of gold. Iíve been up here since 1974. Itís the type of gold! Itís not like the ones at the mines in Nevada. Itís a very rich high-grade gold in a beautiful quartz and it has a use in jewelry that brings a lot of joy to the people that have purchased the rings and bracelets and the specimens throughout the world.
Rita: Hmm, OK, so, well, you are still in operation?
MMM: Yeah, we have a crew and in fact we got a little gold out yesterday, and we have a ready market for it. Thereís a manufacturer in Grass Valley and thereís another manufacturer up in Oroville. They send their product all over the world when they make the jewelry. Down where you are, thereís 350 miles of tunnels underneath Grass Valley and Nevada City. The Sixteen to One is a much smaller mine, 28 miles of tunnels here. We figure that about 20 percent of the vein system is mined out.
Rita: So, you still have a lot of mining to do? A lot of potential there?
MMM: Thereís really a lot and itís a good job. Weíre blue collar workers and I like it because just like farmers that produce something that goes into the economic food chain, we bring wealth out of the mountain. We have a very pristine environment here. We donít use any chemicals. We are also really good about our work. We bring a wealth up, and its spread throughout the stores and business of Nevada County and throughout the state. So, itís justÖ I find that people donít take the time to really ask the questions or to get involved. They want quick, quick answers to these interesting historical questions.
Rita: Well, will you keep us up to date on what happens with Sierra County Grand Jury?
MMM: I will and I would like too. Shifting the responsibility is, weíll say, is treating the symptoms not the causes of industrial accidents. Itís a very dangerous precedence and it will have a very far reaching affect on management. You know, part of keeping informed is everyoneís job. Weíve developed an interactive website a number of years ago. I think that people that would like more information on this, I would like to give you our address and an invitation to anyone to actually join our forum page. You spend some time looking at this, youíll see that itís an issue that transcends throughout the country. Thereís a lot of issues involved with gold. But that we canít cover now.
Rita: I know its hard to cover in a short radio interview. Why donít you give that website address and let people get more detailed information if theyíre interested.
MMM: Iíd like to, its of course W-W-W. O-R-I-G-S-I-X-.C-O-M. thatís origsix.com. We have an interactive forum page, and we put quite a bit of information about this CDAA stuff. They represent the true carpetbaggers of America right nowÖcoming into an area where they have no history, private organization taking on this prosecutorial responsibility. Its actually kind of a frightening situation and should be to all people.
Rita: Interesting story, well thanks for sharing some of your experience with us. Michael Miller, who is mine CEO of the Sixteen to One Mine. We did not hear from Mine Manager Jonathan Farrell, but he also, of course, is deeply involved in this. Thanks for being with us
MMM: Your welcome