Environment

Mining opposition

Henderson residents go NIMBY over proposed Sloan project

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Not far from the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, two mining companies are seeking approval from the Bureau of Land Management to start a 640-acre rock-excavation operation, agitating Henderson residents concerned about dust and noise.
Photo: 2008 file photo/Mona Shield Payne / Las Vegas Sun

In tough times, you’d think the proposed development of a new mine on the outskirts of town—think jobs!—might be a plus. Nevada is not exactly a mining-averse state. And yet, thanks to the boom years, the “outskirts of town” have been mostly swallowed by the city. Which is why residents throughout the southern neighborhoods of Henderson are fighting a proposed mine near I-15 at Sloan. Their point person? George Meese—brother of Ronald Reagan’s attorney General, Ed Meese.

Map

Proposed mine site

“Planning for this was done before there were 20,000 in the [southern Henderson] area,” says Meese.

The 640-acre site, just east of I-15 and four or five miles south of the M Resort, might contain two separate mines, possibly run by Cemex and Service Rock, which could over time be folded into one. The area is a rich source of dolomite, a key ingredient in concrete.

While Inspirada, the lumbering mixed-used community waylaid by the recession, is only a mile from the site, other neighborhoods are farther: Madeira Canyon is about 2.5 miles, while Anthem Highlands and Anthem Country Club are about three miles away. So what’s the problem?

Air quality and truck traffic are sited as two of the chief concerns. Water has also emerged as a potential touchstone. Meese says the mine might use as much as 1,600 gallons of water per minute—or 16 million gallons a week if the plant runs 24/7. (The mine hopes to reclaim 70 percent, reducing the net usage to 5 million gallons a week.) Also, earlier plans for the facility included an asphalt plant, and while that’s been pulled out of the current proposal, Meese worries that it will be put back in later.

Opponents have managed to line up a roster of politicians against the plan, including Harry Reid, Dina Titus, John Ensign and Dean Heller; in a recent letter the latter two reminded the Bureau of Land Management, which will decide the fate of the project, that “children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to air-quality-related respiratory difficulties.”

The BLM’s environmental impact statement began at the end of 2007; Meese says the early public meeting at the start of 2008 was poorly attended, but by last fall, residents had become committed in their opposition and eventually formed the rather cumbersomely named Sun City Anthem Work Group Opposing the Open Pit Mine.

It is, it would appear, one of those NIMBY matters where residents get together to ban some perceived nuisance from entering their side of town. The irony here, though, is that plans for this mine go back at least as far as the neighborhoods.

In a letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, land use consultant Mike Ford notes that the “residents of Anthem and surrounding communities excel in hyperbole but operate with total disregard for the facts or an understanding of public process.” Ford says the project has long been on the books, having been mentioned in a BLM Resource Management Plan in 1998, and mentioned for development in the federal Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002. (The 2002 act calls for the federal government to take 500 acres of the newly created Sloan Natural Conservation Area, but doesn’t mention mining.)

The BLM’s environmental impact statement will be finished in October. Meese’s group has collected 4,000 signatures already, and he expects to have plenty more by fall. The matter should be decided by August 2010.

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