Mining commission raises annual fee to help UNR

The mining industry is backing a plan to raise its annual mining claim fees to protect the school of mines at the University of Nevada Reno from budget cuts.

Nevada's Commission on Mineral Resources voted Tuesday to adopt the plan, raising the fee miners pay on each mining claim by $2 a year effective Aug. 4.

Alan Coyner, administrator of the Division of Minerals, said with more than 220,000 active mining claims in the state, that will raise nearly $450,000 a year for the

Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, which will more than replace the $400,000 UNR President Milton Glick cut from the school's budget because of the state budget crisis.

The increase raises the annual state filing fee for each mining claim from $6.50 to $8.50.

Additionally, there is a $2 a year fee paid to county recorders who keep the records of all mining claims. The biggest payment, he said, is the $125 a year the federal government charges to maintain each claim.

Altogether, Tuesday's commission action means the total fees paid annually to keep a mining claim will increase from $133.50 to $135.50.

Coyner said since the mining industry supports the increase and helped develop the plan, he doesn't expect opposition from Gov. Jim Gibbons despite the governor's long-standing opposition to tax and fee increases. Gibbons has said in the past he could support increases only if those paying the increase favor them.

Coyner said the industry supports the increase because mining companies are in desperate need of mining engineers and geologists.

"The industry has said this is something they want to do," he said. "Their need for these graduates is huge."

And, he pointed out, Gibbons has an attachment to the Mackay School since he received his geology degree there.

"They have been informed and there has been no negative reaction from the governor's office."

Before the money is actually transferred to UNR, the plan must be approved by both the Board of Examiners, which is headed by Gibbons, and the legislative Interim Finance Committee.

Glick thanked the commission, saying he hopes not only to maintain the school's quality and national reputation but to make it even better.

"This goes a long way toward helping us do that," he said.

Coyner said with the recent closure of a mining school in Colorado, there are only 16 such schools left in the U.S. 

Coyner said the Interlocal Agreement implementing the plan contains numerous protections to make sure the money is used to support the school of mines, including an annual review of the school's budget for that money by the commission. In addition, the university agreed to dedicate a portion of the royalties they receive from land leased to the Marigold Mine to the Mackay School.

Coyner said since that revenue is generated by mining, it has long been a sore point that none of the money goes to the mines school.

In return, he said the commission has agreed to pre-fund the first $450,000 payment to make the school's budget whole.

"The need is now," he said. "The budget cut is in this fiscal year."

The money will come from the division's reserves.

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