Suit would block ore trucks on Comstock
October 5, 2012
VIRGINIA CITY (AP) — Opponents of open-pit mining that has resumed for the first time in decades on the edge of a national historic landmark in Northern Nevada have filed a lawsuit to try to stop trucks from hauling the gold and silver ore on a local mountain highway.The Comstock Residents Association is suing Comstock Mining and Storey County, accusing the county of improperly allowing Comstock Mining to haul ore along Nevada 342 at “substantial risk” to the public.In addition to safety concerns, group leaders say the mining runs counter to the best interests of protecting the history of the Comstock in and around Virginia City. They accuse county officials of being more concerned with the mining company’s interests and future income to county coffers than addressing valid concerns of the public.“We have a local government that is dismissing us,” said Joe McCarthy, a board member of the Comstock Residents Association.“Our view is the citizens and the residents are not being served by Storey County,” he said.McCarthy said that at a minimum, the county should have required a traffic study and business impact analysis before allowing Comstock Mining to begin trucking ore on the highway.The entire city was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961 in recognition of the rush of prospectors who chased the discovery of a major silver deposit in the Virginia Range in 1858. At its peak, Virginia City had a population of more than 30,000, with Comstock mines producing hundreds of millions of dollars in silver and gold over a 20-year period.Comstock Mining started acquiring property and mining claims in 2003 across more than 6,000 acres in the Virginia City, Gold Hill and Silver City areas.Company officials say they have identified potential gold and silver resources valued at nearly $5 billion left behind more than a century ago. About 100 people currently work for the company.The suit contends Storey County officials erred with their July conclusion that the county lacked legal authority to prohibit ore hauling on the highway.The association’s Sept. 4 complaint filed in the county’s First District Court seeks a ruling to reaffirm a 2004 permit requirement issued to a predecessor firm, Plum Mining Co., that the highway not be used to haul ore.Comstock Mining needs to use a mile-long stretch of the highway to haul ore between its open pit mine and American Flat processing plant while it works to resolve a dispute with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over status of an off-highway haul road. It began hauling ore on the highway using semi-trucks Aug. 8.In a legal response filed in district court on Sept. 21, Storey County District Attorney William Maddox asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because it did not include an “indispensable party,” the Nevada Department of Transportation.Any declaratory relief ordered in the case could directly impact the department’s ability to control the state highway, Maddox argues in his motion.Doug McQuide, spokesman for Comstock Mining, declined comment on the lawsuit. But he did tell the Reno Gazette-Journal the hauling operation on the highway is “going pretty smoothly.”“We are fully in production,” McQuide said.