Don Rogers: Rise’s messaging less than golden
Rise Gold’s PR is a disaster so far. Just sayin’.
Prepaid postcards with prewritten positive responses to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mind mailed to a few perceived friendlies? Sign here and send on to the county as if original?
Maybe the Nevada County Board of Supervisors is that gullible or jaded, I dunno.
Or the company is more interested in out-of-town investors and wholly unconcerned about the local population, counting more on this community’s quiet apathy than overwrought protest.
Remaining politely reasonable while letting opponents punch themselves out with wild exaggerations is textbook public relations, by the way. Too bad Rise’s flaks can’t follow the script.
The marketing-infused survey last summer was sleazy enough. The prepaid postcard scheme is straight out of LA. In baseball, we’d have to call this an 0-2 count.
Here is Ben Mossman’s biggest whiff.
Reopening a gold mine is Sisyphean, for sure. History literally is against you. The legacy ain’t pretty. Neither Grass Valley’s nor Rise Gold’s own.
We’re still cleaning up from careless and poisonous mining, as well as recalcitrant mining companies, going back to the Gold Rush.
Mossman, the CEO of Rise Gold, still faces criminal proceedings in Canada from a mine his last company abandoned after allegedly flouting environmental regulations and leaving a toxic spill for the locals to deal with. He was fined $15,000 for minor offenses, which were set aside along with a lower court’s acquittals, in a British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling in late 2020. New trial to come.
My point here is that the last thing Rise needs in a public relations strategy is flim-flam.
The science and ability to meet the regulatory standards are pretty much on the mine’s side.
Discharge of water must be potable or the mine cannot operate. The mine has been dewatered twice before in its history into a stream whose flow largely is controlled. The volume of water involved is far from excessive. And what’s in the mine is much deeper than the groundwater tapped today, separated from the surface by, ahem, hard rock.
Hardly anyone in Grass Valley would see or hear the big trucks almost entirely constrained to a few roads right around the mine itself. No tourist comes here for the wonders of Whispering Pines.
The mining work underground wouldn’t disturb sensitive instruments on the surface, never mind human ears. Besides, the idea is to work below where miners already have gone.
Tailings from the Idaho-Maryland have sat at the surface untreated for 75 years and more; somehow the populace has survived and thrived. Treatment would at least seem to be an improvement, high as any tailings pile may grow.
What happens with the wells around the mine is more interesting. The draft environmental impact report identifies seven domestic wells along East Bennett as vulnerable to dewatering the mine, and Rise is arranging for NID to serve 30 or so households with water. Opponents, naturally, summon visions of hundreds and hundreds of wells drying up, though the geology doesn’t support that claim. Still, lots of room for cracks in the study, right?
The mine’s weakest point environmentally appears to be the effect on air quality in an area known for poor air, along with a growing realization about the existential dangers of greenhouse emissions. Even with meeting today’s regulatory marks, which surely will strengthen.
Nonetheless, the mine looks well prepared to meet all the relevant standards it must meet to be able to operate.
Opponents may find themselves less than persuasive in hearings claiming environmental horrors that aren’t remotely true.
ARE THEY SERIOUS?
But the core question here fuels real concern about risk vs. public benefit, the viability of the business itself, the credibility of the principals, how the inevitable problems in the future will be handled. Whether, even with everything in place, it’s worth giving this group a green light.
Bottom line: Are these operators who can be counted on to do the right thing or not?
That’s also the essential public relations challenge from the standpoint of the scientific high ground. Given that, then, why shade the language of survey questions you could ask straight up? Why the lazy, sleazy tactic with the postcards? Why overstate what already supports your cause in the draft environmental impact report?
After all, it’s not only the message you need to get across, but the far more important meta message in all the messaging.
Rise needs more than anything to signal trustworthiness. Instead, their PR has doubled down on BS. Curious strategy.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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