Comstock Mining Inc. moves into Storey County
“It’s a century old Nevada story,” says Joe McCarthy, member of the Comstock Residents Association (CRA), “to allow large companies from out of town, out of state and out of country, to come in and take out our precious minerals. It’s the same old Nevada story.”
Storey County Court House was packed full of people on the night of July 19, who turned out to hear the verdict on Comstock Mining Inc.’s proposed plan to haul ore on state route 342, the main road to and from Virginia City. A decision from the Storey County planning commission was made, with a 4-2 vote, to endorse the plan, upsetting local residents.
According to McCarthy, many of the people in the room were employees or stakeholders of the mining company, which made it seem like much of the town supported the planning commission’s decision. But when longtime resident Ben Wesner asked the crowd if there was anyone who was both a resident and in favor of Comstock Mining Inc.’s plans, the room was almost silent. The public meeting started at 6 p.m. and lasted until 11:30 p.m.
“The planning commission just made arbitrary decisions, and the mining companies just whine,” McCarthy says. “The applicant gets unlimited amount of time to continuously say over and over again that they have the community’s best interest at heart, that they want to ‘revitalize the Comstock,’ and the poor mining company is subject to regulations created by the industry. … The opposition only gets three minutes to speak.”
The CRA is filing several complaints with the planning commission with the help of an attorney, including a complaint about the violation of the open meeting law.
“It was a blatant open meeting law violation,” McCarthy says. “They said it would be a ‘small administrative’ change to the special use permit, but they didn’t alert the citizens in a manner that allowed us to respond to this change.” Instead, the meeting led to a major decision which will ultimately be upheld by the county commission in August, says McCarthy.
The CRA is also asking for studies to be conducted about traffic and business impacted by Comstock Mining Inc.’s intended activities.
“If a traffic study does uphold the health and safety of residents, and businesses aren’t impacted, then we have some information,” McCarthy says. “But there has been no mention of any study. Where is the transparent government in all this? Citizens don’t even get to see what the data shows.”
The guidelines set by the commission prohibits CMI from mining on weekends, and limits the hours during the week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. CMI will be allowed to make 14 trips with seven trucks during the week. The project is also limited to six months, but members of the CRA are skeptical that it will remain within that timeline.
Mining has a tumultuous relationship with the Comstock. leaving environmental scars left behind by companies like Houston Oil and Minerals Co.
“This place hasn’t been successfully mined in a century,” says McCarthy. “These companies basically destroy the environment for generations to come, but they seem to want to blame us, that we’re standing in the way of progress.”