Digging deeper

Comstock Mining Inc.

“Stop open pit mining” signs can be seen on houses throughout Storey County.

“Stop open pit mining” signs can be seen on houses throughout Storey County.

Photo by ASHLEY HENNEFER

Despite community opposition, Comstock Mining Inc. has begun hauling ore on Route 342 (“Mineshafted,” July 26). But that doesn’t mean the Comstock Residents Association will keep quiet about it.

Recently, Storey County officials decided not to enforce the open pit mining permit, essentially allowing CMI to “circumvent the BLM [Bureau of Land Management],” says Steve Funk, spokesperson for the Comstock Residents Association.

“Obviously, given the state of the economy of Northern Nevada, given the desire for jobs to appear out of nowhere and to appear without repercussion, counties are eager to do something about it,” Funk says. “But this is a poor tradeoff. There are bigger consequences here. When you get down to the numbers, the true economic engine is tourism, which is what has sustained this community for over 100 years.”

According to testimonies from Storey County residents, the ore hauling has already made life difficult. CMI is hauling on the main route, 342, rather than the designated truck route, 341. The company has been detouring visitors to take 341, essentially bypassing the local businesses which depend on that traffic. Will Rose, owner of Doodads Cybercafe and Emporium, says that he and his wife were depending on the tourists in town for Hot August Nights, but the detour prevented any possible business.

“I’m a fourth-generation Nevadan and my family was in mining,” Rose said in a statement. “I’m not anti-mining. You can’t bullshit me on the greatness of mining, I get it, but you can’t just let these guys do anything they want. Just look at the history … in places like Weed Heights or outside of Ely where there are just huge scars … and I’ve never known any of them to really clean up after themselves, despite their promises.”

The amount of dirt and dust stirred by the hauling is also in violation of the community’s requests.

“They promised they would cover those trucks,” Funk says. “But if you go up there and look, only about one in six trucks are covered. The county won’t hold them to any standards.”

The CRA has taken their concerns to the Nevada legislature.

“The community has been working with the Nevada congressional legislation, talking to them about our concerns about the local ecology, and our concerns about the encroachment of big business in small communities,” says Funk.

Comstock Mining Inc. owns more than 6,000 acres of property in the Comstock, and is expected to develop new mining projects in neighboring counties throughout the next few years.

“They have a plan to tear up the Virginia range all the way from Silver City to Dayton,” Funk says. “We’ve had this happen before. Sites that were mined in the early part of the last century were left in very toxic conditions. That was the same idea Houston [Oil and Minerals Co.] had. Then the price of gold tanked so they left. That’s the history of the way these businesses operate. There’s plenty of ethical mining happening in Nevada, but this isn’t it.”