Science

Supervisor in mining office faces conflict-of-interest allegations

Gold and Precious MaterialMining
Supervisor in California office that regulates mines is under investigation for alleged conflicts of interest
Supervisor in mining office co-owns a Northern California gold-mining company within his jurisdiction

A supervisor in the California government office that regulates mines is under investigation for alleged conflicts of interest, including co-ownership of a Northern California gold-mining company within his jurisdiction, ethics officials confirmed on Friday.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating Thomas P. Ferrero, a senior engineering geologist in the Department of Conservation's Office of Mine Reclamation compliance unit. Ferrero is a co-owner of the Miriah Mining Co. Inc. gold mine about 20 miles west of Mt. Shasta.

The FPPC's review marks a turnaround by the agency, which last year advised that Ferrero had no conflict of interest because, among other things, the state regulates surface mining only and Miriah is an underground mine under federal jurisdiction.

But the commission opened an investigation this year after receiving new information from Ferrero critics, including former state Mining and Geology Board members and disgruntled reclamation office employees.

Their complaints allege that in 2012, Ferrero prepared a reclamation plan to begin surface mining at Miriah. The plan was reviewed by staff members in a different unit of the mining office.

The complaints also allege that Ferrero falsified a state mine inspection report in 2012 about the Kaiser Eagle Mountain Mine in Riverside County at the direction of Jason Marshall, chief deputy director of the conservation department.

In that case, Ferrero's report omitted several violations documented in an earlier inspection by state geologists. Those violations would have prevented Kaiser from reactivating the mine, which had been closed since the early 1990s.

Ferrero declined to comment.

In documents filed with the secretary of state's office, he disclosed a financial stake in Miriah of more than $100,000. He has worked for the reclamation office since 2009 and he became a senior engineering geologist in charge of compliance in 2012.

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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