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American Flat to be demolished

by F.T. Norton
ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com

Eighty-three years after it was abandoned and became a gathering place for graffiti artists, paintballers and partiers, American Flat in Storey County is slated for demolition.

A 2008 audit of the site by the Department of Interior, Office of the Inspector General found the mill site to be a high-risk liability to the U.S. government.

According to the BLM, all eight mill buildings will be demolished, voids and tunnels filled and building footprints and other disturbed areas revegetated.

Project funding and a schedule for demolition and reclamation of the mill site have not yet been identified.

“The buildings at the mill site will be removed and the site totally reclaimed for public health and safety on public land,” said Linda Kelly, BLM Sierra Front Field Office Manager. “Taking this action affords the greatest level of public safety over the long term and is the most feasible to fund and implement.”

The United Comstock Merger Mill site is located on public lands near Gold Hill.

The mill was built in the early 1920s to process local gold and silver ore utilizing cyanide vat leaching in what was then described as the largest concrete mill in the United States, which makes it historically significant. Since abandonment around 1927, this seven-acre mill site has been used as a place to hold parties, post graffiti, and conduct paintball wars despite physical safety hazards from falling concrete, underground mill sumps filled with water, and holes in the concrete flooring.

The Flats, as its known to locals, can be seen from the newly constructed V&T Railroad tracks. Hundreds of people every year have taken the pitted dirt road west of Gold Hill to explore the massive tunnel system and add their own mark to the colorful graffiti that covers the long-abandoned buildings’ concrete skeletons.

Despite its dilapidated state very few serious injury accidents have occurred at the Flats.

In 1996, a 44-year-old Wisconsin man died after wrecking a rented four-wheel vehicle there. A press release sent out at the time stated that was the first fatality at the site.

Since then no other deaths have been recorded.

An Environmental Assessment states local agency officials possibly recall an additional fatality, injuries from stabbings, falls, burns and shootings, vehicle accidents and rollovers, wildland fires originating from illegal bonfires and reports of stripped stolen vehicles found there. No records on such incidents were available.