The initial meeting of the new Nevada Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission (MOAC) Tuesday in Carson City brought out mining’s loyal opposition, but also revealed potential concerns for regulation of mining health and safety, as well as getting mine auditing programs back on track.
Proclaiming they are not anti-mining, members of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Great Basin Resource Watch, Occupy Carson City, as well as Comstock Mining District activist Larry Wahrenbrock proceeded to inform the new panel about Nevada mining’s foibles and sins.
PLAN Executive Director Bob Fulkerson declared, “We want Nevadans to have those high-paying mining jobs. But we want to ensure that the highly profitable, multi-national mining corporates that are running the mines do so as safely and in an as environmentally friendly way as possible while paying their fair share of revenues of our state.”
Fulkerson urged the MOAC to undertake an inventory on the cumulative impacts of the industry on Nevada, including mine safety, toxic releases to air, land and water, dewatering, costs of cleanup, and revenue generation. “The information and analysis the commission generates related to mining accountability can then lead you and the Legislature to develop workable solutions in the best interests of the industry and the people of Nevada,” he observed.
“The commission should undertake a study to find out how many people have died, how many injuries have workers sustained and the amount and nature of citations that have been issued by federal and state regulators,” Fulkerson urged. “Is there a pattern of worker injuries and deaths that the state needs to address?
However, an official from Nevada’s Mine Safety and Training Section said the agency can’t fill enough mine inspector positions to effectively regulate mine safety. The agency can’t find enough mine inspectors due to the high demand for skilled miners in the private sector. As a result, two mine inspector positions remain vacant.
Meanwhile, Great Basin Resource Watch Executive Director John Hadder stressed the organization’s concerns about mining-related pit lakes, mining emissions allegedly degrading air quality, and mining’s impacts in rural residential areas.
Silver City’s Wahrenbrock urged the commission to support streamlining and coordinating the permitting process that mines go through because he feels the cumulative effects of mining do not get addressed under the current permitting system.
Chris Nielsen, deputy director of the Nevada Department of Taxation, told the commission that every mine operator in the state has been notified to expect a field audit in the coming months. Barrick will undergo the first series of audits, while Newmont is next in line.
Several audience members including a schoolteacher and a college student told the commissioners that the state should be receiving more tax revenues from the Nevada mining industry. “I hope we can make some changes so our gold can be used for the people of Nevada,” said a southern Nevada schoolteacher.
Commission members include former Nevada Assemblyman Roger Bremner, State Senator Greg Brower, consultant Robert Campbell, Nevada Conservation League executive Kyle Davis, State Senator Majority Leader Steven Horsford, former Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander, and economist John Restrepo, who was elected chairman of the board before he had a chance to consider if he actually wanted the job. Davis was elected vice chairman of the panel.