Comstock Mining Update – September 30, 2015

Highway 342 Closed Again

Highway 342 closed at Devil's Gate, Silver City NevadaOn September 28 NCOT announced that State Route 342 through Gold Hill will be closed again September 29 through November 12, with periodic lane closures and continuing construction in the roadway shoulder through the end of the year.

Through traffic will be detoured to nearby State Route 341 (the truck route), which bypasses both Gold Hill and Silver City and is considerably longer, less welcoming and more dangerous.

At the Lyon County Commissioners meeting on September 3, Silver City Advisory Board Chairman Erich Obermayr’s report on Section 336 (the mining section) of the county’s new land use plan exceeded the 3 minute time limit allotted for Public Comment.

When time ran out he was ordered to sit down.

Lyon County Court House, Main Street Yerington

Lyon County Court House, Main Street Yerington Nevada

He explained that he was speaking for the 180 residents of Silver City and insisted on finishing.The Chairman then said he’s be removed from the meeting if he did not sit down and be quiet.

Obermayr refused.

Lyon County Nevada logo

Nancy Dallas: ‘Stop limiting public input on agenda items’

“When this ‘three minute rule’ is placed on testimony from the public in regards to an item that is on the agenda, it can lead to discrimination and lack of ‘equal time’ for input from all sides related to that agenda item, which is what happened during the September 3, 2015 Commissioner meeting.”

Read the whole thing here

Whereupon with a rap of the gavel Chairman Fierro got up and led the rest of the Commissioners from the room, along with most of the spectators. County Manager Jeff Page then told Obermayr to leave the meeting or he would bring the sheriff and have him removed.

Obermayr told him to go get the Sheriff, but when a Silver City neighbor persuaded him that getting arrested was not going to help anything, he informed Jeff Page that he would stand down, and resumed his seat. But Chairman Fierro insisted he leave the room and he listened to the rest of the meeting on the loudspeaker in the lobby.

Later, Obermayr wrote to Silver City friends:
“I regret that I allowed my personal anger and frustration to get out of hand. It was unprofessional and I’m afraid it has harmed my ability to communicate with the Board of County Commissioners on behalf of my community. I felt justified in my request for additional time, especially in light of my role as spokesman for the advisory board and through it our community.

“I also have to admit that my frustration with the BOCC also played a role. We in Silver City have spent many many hours and much energy discussing and going over a whole series of drafts for Section 336. Yet at today’s meeting it was clear that — with the exception of Chairman Fierro — none of them were prepared to intelligently discuss the draft of Section 336. One commissioner openly acknowledged he had not read the document (but commented on it anyway) and it was clear a couple of the other commissioners had not taken the time — if they read it at all — to properly review the document.

“During the course of their discussion, the commissioners leafed through the document and cherry-picked individual items to take issue with. They had not bothered to familiarize themselves with the overall purpose or reason for the document, nor did they — unless prompted by staff — offer any guidance whatsoever on what to do with their comments.

Public Comment at MOAC

The following was presented as Public Comment at the Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission meeting in Carson City September 24:

My name is David Toll. I am a resident of Gold Hill and have been for many years.

I am here to ask that you take the collapse of Highway 342 very seriously, and that you seriously investigate its cause.

The highway has collapsed there four or five times since it was first paved over the mine shaft, each time being replugged and repaved, most recently in 2006. This time an enormous concrete plug was placed over the shaft, and a large earthmass built up all around it, engineered to hold it firmly and forever immobile.

But. Last winter it failed, with a powerfully negative economic impact on all the Comstock communities.

Why? The evidence suggests that CMI dug the pit too close to the road and destabilized the earthmass holding the plug in place.

I am told there is a well-thumbed engineering report in the company library warning against expanding the pit eastward because of the danger of undermining the highway. Why would the company risk shaving the wall as close to the road as possible, and as steep beneath it as possible, knowing it might collapse?

This company risked putting its haul trucks on the public right-of-way without a permit, and was cited for Trespass by the BLM. It risked using nonpermitted environmental equipment and was fined a quarter million dollars by NDEP.

I believe CMI would take any risk to stay solvent and keep its shareholders’ golden dreams alive, and the failure of the plug has expedited CMI’s access to highly desirable ore beneath and beyond the roadway without waiting months for permits.

NRS 405.230 provides that “Any person who, in any manner, obstructs any road, street or alley, or in any manner damages it or prevents travel thereon” is “guilty of a public offense, as prescribed in NRS 193.155”.

NRS 193.155 says that “Where the value of the loss is $5,000 or more or where the damage results in impairment of public communication, transportation or police and fire protection” — which this highway closing did — it is a Class C Felony . . . for which CMI had motive and opportunity, and from which it is reaping the rewards.

I think it is reasonable and appropriate for this Commission to determine whether or not a Felony has been committed, and overlooked.

Thank you.

None of them, with the exception of Chairman Fierro, treated it as anything more than an inconvenient piece of bird poop that had suddenly dropped out of the sky on their desk — this despite the work the Planning staff, Planning Commission, we in Silver City, and in fact the mining interests, had done to prepare this document for their review.

“Unfortunately, my anger and frustration were a bad mix and, once again, I regret that losing my temper may affect Silver City’s relationship with the BOCC.”


On Thursday September 24 the Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission met in Carson City to sit through a presentation by NDOT, CMI and Storey County about the collapse of the highway and their joint effort to avoid responsibility for it.

Bill Hoffman of NCOT couldn’t stop gushing over everyone’s efforts to cover each other’s asses. Corrado De Gasperis of CMI said the Truck Route, which we’ll be using again for a while, is “a more scenic route”. Austin Osborne pronounced everything hunky-dory from Storey County’s point of view and blew kisses.

None of the three showed any inclination to discuss what caused road’s failure other than Mr. Hoffman’s emphasis on the rain that fell long after the subsidence had been discovered and Mr De Gasperis’ multiple assertions that everything CMI had done was for safety’s sake.

This is a test of MOAC’s credibility. If it accepts without verification the pretense that CMI’s activities didn’t contribute to the failure of the road, it will fail the test.

6 Comments

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  1. Kathryn Kariotis Harmon

    I was at that meeting on 9/3 and find the representation presented here to be extremely slanted and biased. The commissioners were much better informed – as were many of us who spoke- than Mr. Obermyer has presented. Everyone else- regardless of how many each one of us spoke for- followed the rules and were polite, sitting down when our time expired. Several people had much more to say but no one else felt they were more special than anyone else.
    Silver City might want to reconsider who they choose to represent them. Gayle had more class and substance in her brief statement than did all of Eric’s rants and posturing.
    He embarrassed himself and all those he stood for. If he had less arrogance he would have immediately stepped down.

  2. I can only say Thank YOU to David, his staff and posse. Without your efforts, those of us who love and care for Nevada and the Comstock would be hard pressed to come up with the details of what is and has been. Always ~ Cynth

  3. Keep the pressure on David. Perhaps, someday, some clear-thinking and honest public official will assist carrying this torch!

  4. David,

    Thanks for sharing. The mining debacle is shameful. I wrote the Lyon County Commissioners to weigh in on the proposed planning regulations. It is frustrating to watch– again– this process be hijacked.

    Appreciate your willingness to speak up and share what is going on.

    So few people know of any of this.

    Shaun

  5. Regarding Kathryn Harmon’s comments about reconsidering “who they choose to represent them”, consider this: In a 2015 Precious Metals Summit in Beaver Creek, Colorado on Sept. 18th, CMI President & CEO Corrado De Gasperis, made these comments about Silver City during a presentation, “[This mine], it’s right across the street from Silver City, where some of our resistance has been, so I think it’s ironic that our mine looks like a Rastafarian pot smoker.” He makes the comments at about 17 minutes 9 seconds at this link:

    http://www.gowebcasting.com/events/precious-metals-summit-conferences-llc/2015/09/18/comstock-mining-inc/play/stream/16076

  6. Kathryn do you understand that the Lyon County Commissioners ignored the survey of 80% of the voting residents of Silver City, Lyon Planning Commission recommendation, and the Lyon County Staff report recommending denial of the Special Use Permit for mining in the city limits of Silver City? The Lyon County Commissioners approved mining within the town and then removed from the Lyon Planning Commission the representative from our area of the county and replaced him with a lady from Dayton. Historically, every section of the county has been represented. Now we are without a voice.

    Eric has apologized for his anger, but I understand his frustration. In the past the Lyon County Commissioners have given citizens extra time to finish their comments. They seem to want to go to any lengths to shut us up.

    A open pit mine will be allowed in the city limits right next to our home. Kathryn would you like an open pit mine next to your house? When CMI starts exploratory drilling and mining, you have our personal invitation to come see what it is like to live in this type of environment.

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