GRASS VALLEY, Calif. (KOVR-TV) — It’s been decades since gold country in California has been actively mined, but a Canadian company wants to change that in in a former Gold Rush city.

Taking a stroll down Main Street in Grass Valley, photos in store windows show the town is known for its rich Wild West history and its role in the Gold Rush. That once included the Idaho-Maryland mine, not far from downtown — but untouched since 1956. “At the time they were going to double the production, going from 1,000 tons per day to 2,000 per day,” says Benjamin Mossman, CEO of Rise Gold Corp in Grass Valley.

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When he heard this fact, he saw the golden opportunity. “Based on that, there’s a lot of gold left to be mined,” Mossman tells KOVR-TV in Sacramento.

A test drill performed by the company back in 2018 was deemed successful, proving some gold is still there. Now he’s working with the county to try and permit the area, capitalizing on the prospect of reopening the mine to its former glory. Mossman claims it would boost the economy and add hundreds of jobs.

“There’s no trade-off between the environment and the jobs,” Mossman says. “We’ve designed it to have no impact on the environment.”

But protesters lining the corners of Sutton Way and Brunswick Road in Grass Valley on Thursday, which was also Earth Day, said otherwise. Horns from drivers showed them support as they stood with their signs for three hours. Among them was Tony Louria, who lives near the mine.

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“There are [sic] potential for great impacts,” Louria said. “We just feel like it’s not worth it.”

At his Grass Valley home, he showed KOVR-TV how close he lives to the mine, and questioned whether the mine would be worth it. “Are those jobs worth the devastation that will occur?” Louria asked.

He’s concerned about damages to his neighborhood water supply. A water treatment center would need to be constructed and tunnels for groundwater would have to be emptied and kept dry ahead of construction if the mine were to be approved and constructed. The project would cost millions.

“The profits of something with these high risks would be made off the backs of the citizens,” Louria says.

But despite these neighborhood worries, Mossman stands by the safety of the mine. “Working in a mine now is like working in residential construction,” Mossman says. The company has unearthed controversy in a community drilling them with opposition.

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What comes next? An environmental impact report should be released in the coming months, which would trigger a public comment period – before the county makes a decision.