Coalition fights proposed kitty litter mine

A newly formed coalition has launched an all-out media blitz in an effort to persuade Washoe County Commissioners to scoop plans to build an open-pit mine and processing plant in Hungry Valley.

Chicago-based kitty litter company Oil-Dri Corp. has its eyes on 300 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in the valley, which is bordered by large residential areas including Spanish Springs and Lemmon Valley. The world’s largest kitty litter manufacturer is smitten by the valley because of its dry clay, perfect for scooping.

But this has a number of area residents upset, as they fear what the open-pit mine and processing plant could bring: polluted water, noise, dust, 50 trucks rumbling through residential areas per day and general ugliness.

Enter Citizens for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, a coalition of groups including the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Citizen Alert, the Sierra Club, Great Basin Mine Watch and the Reno Sparks Indian Colony.

“It’s important that the citizens of the area understand the threat this project poses to us,” said PLAN’s Bob Fulkerson at a Tuesday morning press conference, held in front of the Washoe County Administration Complex, where county commissioners will decide the issue in the coming weeks.

Oil-Dri—which has centuries-old friendly mining laws on its side—has vowed to be a good neighbor. But studies showing the potential for harm from dust and arsenic in groundwater, not to mention the destruction of what Oil-Dri opponents call one of the area’s last pristine open spaces, have convinced a number of folks, including state Sen. Bernice Martin Mathews and Assemblymembers Bernie Anderson, Sheila Leslie and Debbie Smith, to oppose the project.

Citizens for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods plans to run two commercials on local radio stations and to send mailers to tens of thousands of area homes in an effort to drum up grassroots opposition to the project. Opponents say that County Commission approval could not only harm Hungry Valley, but send a dangerous message to mining companies that Washoe County is open for digging.