Resurrected mining oversight commission meets, promises ‘meaty’ discussions

By: - October 28, 2021 4:09 pm

The commission created by the Legislature in 2011 hasn’t met since 2015. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management, Nevada office)

A commission originally intended to scrutinize Nevada’s lucrative mining industry held its first meeting in nearly six years Thursday, and its newly appointed chair promised robust discussions beginning next year.

Originally created by the Nevada State Legislature in 2011, the Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission was designed to provide oversight of mining compliance with laws and regulations related to taxation, operations, safety and the environment. The seven-member commission last met in 2015, and in the years that followed seats were largely left unappointed as sitting members’ terms expired.

Gov. Steve Sisolak in October of this year appointed members into five of the seven seats.

Anthony Ruiz, the senior advisor of government relations and community affairs at Nevada State College, was selected by the new members Thursday to serve as commission chair.

Ruiz described the first meeting as “organizational” but said he expects the next meeting “to have more meaty agenda items.” The next meeting will likely be held in January. The commission is expected to meet at least quarterly going forward.

Ruiz said he would like to see a list of mining regulations that have been put into place since MOAC last met in 2015. He also expressed an interest in receiving an update on mining safety inspections.

Speaking during the meeting’s public comment period, Great Basin Resource Watch Director John Hadder suggested the commission look at the issue of unreclaimed water in mining pit lakes, calling it an issue “that’s been languishing for many years.”

“We have a number of regulatory things that we’d like to see the commission take on,” Hadder added, “but let’s take them one at a time.”

Several public commenters, including representatives from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, spoke about the need to add indigenous people to the commission.

Serving with Ruiz and Witt on the commission are Jerry Pfarr, a retired Newmont Mining Corporation vice president; Pamela Harrington, a field coordinator with Trout Unlimited; and Melissa Clary, who was appointed to the dormant board by former Gov. Brain Sandoval in 2018.

Sisolak’s office did not respond to a request from the Current for an update on the remaining two open seats, one of whom must be recommended by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and the other by Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer.

Each commission member is appointed to a two-year term and may be reappointed.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and two mutts.