Original Sixteen to One Mine, Inc.

The Perspective of an Old Miner - Mountain Messenger

If only it were as difficult to borrow trouble as it is to borrow money, how changed the face of the entire world would be.


I am 85 years old, and for 40 years of my life, I worked in numerous mines as a hard-rock miner. I sit here at my home utterly amazed at what is happening in Sierra County.

How well I remember the day I came home from fifth grade really upset and depressed, because my good friend Linus Foley, who sat in the seat across the aisle from me, had died. Linus, while playing during a recess period had fallen and scraped both his knees. Lockjaw set in and took his life.

My dear mother listened real well and when I was through, she placed her hand on my little shoulder and said, ”Albert, we all have a cross to bear.”

Now, it seems to me there are some people out there trying their utmost to nail Mike Miller to his cross, long, long, before his time.

Mike Miller of Alleghany and his mine manager at the Sixteen to One, Jonathan Farrell, are formally charged with a felony; responsibility for the death of Mark Fussell in a mine accident in November, 2000.

These charges were brought by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), which is a private organization contracted to the California Department of Labor Relations.

I understand that one week prior to this fatal accident, OSHA mine inspectors, for the state of California, were at the mine for a thorough examination and gave the mine a clear and free billing from any prevailing safety problems.

I know how terrible an accident of this sort is for all, especially for the family members left. While working in a mine, which to begin with is horrendously dangerous at all times, a man must be cautious, alert and careful every minute of the day.

The Sixteen to One has been shut down, because some bureaucrat says waste water from the mine is running into Kanaka Creek. Can you believe? They want to shut the mine down because of this and some 20 miners are unemployed, predominantly family men.

Anyone with a brain the size of a pea should know that wherever you find raw gold, you are sure to find arsenic. It is a 1,2 package: raw gold and arsenic.

Why now?

This type of constant harassment, in an ambiguous manner of continual infliction of punitive damages, is something that would give even Attilla the Hun a good case of diarrhea! It seems to me that someone out there is trying their utmost to make Miller’s punishment excessive.

What has become of the standards of decency?

Mike Miller has been rudely ignored throughout this entire ordeal, especially in trying to do something in regards to protecting his impeccable reputation. Surely he has already made far more than his fair share of sacrifices.

Has the CDAA become a group of people who have lost their sense of history?

Alleghany is one of the most beautiful, historic, mining towns of the entire Mother Lode, but real fast it is coming to be a town without a soul!

Certainly, as long as we are dealing with human beings, there will be problems. But, it would seem to me that some things are getting to be personal rather than professional.

Looking over this situation, I see all the beauty of a sink full of dirty dishes.

Come, on November 20th, to the Sierra County Courthouse in Downieville and give your support by being there; to the citizens of Alleghany and to two of its outstanding citizens, Mike Miller and Jonathan Farrell, who presently are going through this ordeal.


Al Pratti

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