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State Regulators Impose Record 11 Million Dollar Fine on Placerville Mine

State regulators imposed a record $11 million fine Thursday on the operators of a renegade gold mine in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento.

Owners of the Big Cut Mine south of Placerville previously ignored more than $1 million in fines from the state Mining and Geology Board, and board executive officer Stephen Testa said he doubts the state can collect on this one. Testa says that the miners ignored the fines.

Big Cut Mine 1

But the board also plans to seek a court injunction to halt mining while it sues over the property owners’ repeated failure to correct violations of the states’ Surface Mining and Reclamation Act. Testa says this case is abnormal for mines in California.

            Big Cut Mine 2

Regulators say the miners have continued to scrape valuable ore from a ridge about 45 miles east of the state capital even though two of the operators also face criminal charges in El Dorado County. Joseph Hardesty and Rick Churches have another court appearance set for Friday. Testa says litigation is the only next step.

            Big Cut Mine 3

State agencies and county prosecutors say the ongoing mining operations are illegal, have polluted a nearby creek and threaten to collapse 150-year-old mining tunnels.


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