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Real Estate Developers with Mining Claims Near Las Vegas Could Still Purchase Land

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, December 12, 2005

(WASHINGTON, Dec. 12) - Proposed fixes to heavily criticized mining legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. James A. Gibbons (R-NV) could still cost Nevada schools more than $120 million, slash $100 million per year in taxes currently paid by the mining industry, and leave 350 millions acres of public property across the West open to purchase and development.

Gibbons revised bill still allows the purchase of existing mining claims on lands around Las Vegas that are currently governed by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA). An Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of federal land records identified 123 current mining claims within the SNPLMA boundary covering up to 9,163 acres. Patenting, or purchase of these lands, which is permitted under Gibbons' amended proposal, would effectively take these lands out of the SNPLMA program and cost Nevada's State Education Fund an estimated $122 million.

Real estate developers like Del Webb with thousands of acres of mining claims inside the SNPLMA boundary stand to make millions off the bill's passage.

The proposed changes also leave untouched sections 6101 and 6102 of the bill, which would render state and local governments unable to assess any fees on mining activity on land once held by the federal government. This could cost the state $100 million per year in taxes from the mining industry.

"Gibbons' back-peddling is intended to fix what can only be seen as sloppy drafting," said Richard Wiles, EWG's senior vice president. "This desperate tinkering does not resolve the core problems with the bill, which would still allow the purchase of millions of acres of public property all across the West."

Prior to today's announced changes, Gibbons' legislation would have completely derailed SNPLMA, an important Nevada land use initiative that he had previously supported. But even with the proposed changes, current claimholders could significantly cut into the amount of land available under SNPLMA and dramatically reduce potential revenues flowing to the state.

A map of the parcels of land that could be sold if Gibbons' proposal passes and a list of claimholders, including developer Del Webb, is available online at http://www.ewg.org/reports/dirtcheap2/.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group's research on public land issues is available at http://www.ewg.org/featured/5

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