Well, its October again which means a couple things: The World Series, Octoberfest, Halloween, and most importantly, the start of the Gold Rush season! If you haven’t watched the show before, it’s a reality TV show that follows the day to day activities of small gold mining crews in Alaska. And just like the clients of D.L. Howell & Associates, these miners need to prepare plans and obtain Permits from the local municipal, State and Governmental agencies before they can stick a shovel in the ground. This is very similar to obtaining the necessary environmental permits to do Land Development Projects in Chester County.

Opencast mining quarry with machinery at work. Digging equipment, industrial landscape

Being familiar with the challenges in obtaining permits from agencies, such as the Chester County Conservation District and DEP, to disturb environmentally sensitive areas, such as woodlands, wetlands, streams and associated riparian buffers, I find it amazing that in Alaska, under a mining permit, you can pretty much bulldoze right through as many wetlands and streams as you want. I’m not talking about guys with shovels and gold pans like the 49-ers, I’m talking 100-ton D9 dozers that wipe the stream bed completely off the map to dig down to “pay-dirt”. Now it is Alaska, and very remote, so there probably isn’t too many homeowners calling the DEP or local Municipality to complain about muddy waters downstream. If a stream gets muddy in the wilderness and no one is around to see it does it make a noise?? I’m sure the proper cofferdams, dirtbags sediment traps are in place and just not shown on TV. It’s also hard to believe these guys can blow through 50 acres of wetlands and streams and our clients need to give up their first born and a pint of blood to cross a stream or disturb 2,000 SF of wetlands?!

The truth of the matter is that mining activities, even in the remote parts of Alaska, are highly regulated and contain frequent inspections. Our buddies at EMCOR (formerly URS) oversee the miners, making sure these guys do what they are supposed to in accordance with all the applicable regulations. And although you don’t see this part of the process on the show, these miners are responsible for escrowing monies for reclamation of the land when they are finished. It may seem like all they do is dig up and sluice tens of thousands of cubic yards of dirt all summer long and then roll out of town but when they are finished mining they are required to remediate the land they disturbed. This includes grading and the replanting of trees & grasses to ensure that the native ecosystem returns to normalcy after they are gone.