A landmark case

Comstock Residents Association victorious in lawsuit

Robin Cobbey and David Toll of CRA standing on a hill overlooking the canyon where mining vehicles were passing through.

Robin Cobbey and David Toll of CRA standing on a hill overlooking the canyon where mining vehicles were passing through.


To learn more about the Comstock Residents Association and this issue, visit http://comstockresidents.org.

The Comstock Residents Association (CRA) recently received a summary judgment in their favor in their lawsuit against Storey County. This judgment was that Storey County did, in fact, have the authority to disallow the use of Highway 342 by Comstock Mining Inc. (CMI).

“The position that the DA [William Maddox] has taken is that only NDOT [Nevada Department of Transportation] can control the highway,” said Robin Cobbey, president of the CRA. “We won on that because the SUP [special use permit] was regulating the mining, not the highway, and even NDOT will say they don’t have anything to do with this.”

Although the CRA views the outcome of the lawsuit as a win, CMI Director of Communications Doug McQuide doesn’t believe the lawsuit actually made any changes.

“We always questioned the merits of the lawsuit and never considered it material,” McQuide said. “The part that they see as a victory—that Storey County has the authority to regulate the highway. We had no issues with that. From our perspective, we couldn’t be more pleased with the ruling of the court. It didn’t necessarily benefit us, but it didn’t necessarily hurt us either.”

The CRA lost on two points. First, they wanted an injunction to stop use of the highway, which became a nonissue during the trial when the Bureau of Land Management allowed CMI to use the haul road they had previously disallowed. Second, they protested against the procedure in which Storey County Manager Pat Whitten told CMI it could use the highway.

Cobbey said CMI had many violations with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the county. One was for dumping into a stream in spring 2011, a violation that should have voided the SUP that allowed them to mine in the area.

“We went to Maddox in April 2011 to show him the violations, and he said from then on, they were going to be really stern and strict,” Toll said. “Two weeks later was that environmental violation. He never acknowledged it, but if he had stood up then, none of this mess would have happened.”

Cobbey said she wants CMI to take the initiative to communicate and work with the community and look into the environmental impacts of their mining practices.

Steve Funk, director of media services at Professional Business Intelligence Services, of which the CRA is a client, said he can’t understand why all this damage is being done to a historic area.

“The thing that boggles my mind completely is that this is a historic landmark,” Funk said. “It’s an endangered area. They call it the Carson River Mercury Superfund Site because the land has been spoiled by previous mining efforts with mercury.”

McQuide, on the other hand, believes that CMI has worked with the community and is trying to help the community as a whole.

“We feel we’re completely engaged in the community with our long-term plans,” McQuide said. “We made a commitment to 1 percent royalties to reclamation of the surface mining activity and to a nonprofit foundation for historic preservation, primarily for the historic mining structures on the Comstock. If we pour 10 percent into gold, 1 percent goes into each of these commitments. Ultimately, ending up in millions of dollars.”