Controversial Nevada mine begins operations
Written byMANUEL QUINONES, E&E
Comstock Mining Inc. has restarted operations in a historic Nevada mining district whose resources helped develop the western United States, the company announced yesterday.
Comstock said it had begun hauling ore from its Lucerne mine near Virginia City, which is located about 30 mines south of Reno. It hopes to expand operations in the area from its starter mines to nearby sites.
"The last six months represents a tremendously focused march to production, effectively building our team, the mine and the entire operating facility," CEO Corrado De Gasperis said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire Comstock Team, it is very satisfying to say that we are Nevada's Newest Gold and Silver Miner."
Nevada is America's top gold mining state, and the company is tapping into the celebrated Comstock Lode, whose riches helped propel Nevada toward statehood in the 1800s and develop San Francisco (Greenwire, Nov. 16, 2011).
But the area had recently become less a mining town and more a tourist destination that celebrates past mining through the Comstock Historic District and the Virginia City National Historic Landmark. Its location is far from many of the state's mines in Elko and its surroundings.
Residents worry about reduced property values and say the restarted mine could disturb pollutants from the Carson River Mercury Superfund site. U.S. EPA and other environmental officials blame past mining for the contamination.
"As a longtime resident, I am especially saddened at the degradation and destruction of the Virginia City National Historic Landmark," said David Toll, an opposition leader with the Comstock Residents Association.
"It appalls me that so much dirt can be disturbed without environmental oversight within this national priority Mercury Superfund site," Toll said.
He and other residents are not convinced by the company's promises that it will help clean up past pollution, promote tourism and contribute significantly to the local economy, plagued with high unemployment. Comstock's Lucerne open-pit mine is close to one of the area's main highways.
The company said it will soon reach a processing level of 1 million tons of ore per year and 20,000 gold equivalent ounces. Comstock expects to begin pouring gold and silver in September.
Amid high prices, Nevada is awash with gold exploration and mining projects (Greenwire, May 15). Last month, the Bureau of Land Management announced it will prepare an environmental impact statement for Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp.'s Long Canyon project in Elko County.
The agency is also reviewing Rodeo Creek Gold Inc.'s Hollister underground mine, also in Nevada. Elsewhere, BLM released its environmental assessment for Destiny Mining LLC's gold and gravel operation near Fairplay, Colo.