CARSON CITY — The mining industry and the federal government were targets of two eminent domain bills taken up Wednesday by an Assembly committee. While one seeks to curtail the mining industry’s power to take private property, the other would invoke the rule against Nevada’s largest landowner.
AB180 would strip the state’s mining industry of powers that allow it to acquire private property for mineral extractions. A similar bill has already been approved by the Senate.
Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said his bill must be amended into the Senate version, SB86, by Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. That bill would repeal eminent domain rights from the now defunct state sugar beet industry.
Horne told the Assembly Judiciary Committee that he considered amending his bill to allow counties to invoke eminent domain on behalf of mining concerns as a way to help preserve their ability to expand and create jobs.
But he decided against it, referencing in part a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 and 2008 that prevents governments from transferring property taken from one private party to another for development.
“I think it’s a circumvention of our constitution,” he said. “If you just allow the county to say, ‘Hey, this mine needs it.’ … It’s the same thing.”
Eminent domain became an issue in the summer when a Canadian-based company settled with investment owners of an Elko County ranch after the mining company cited the law in seeking access to mineral rights on ranch land.
Residents of Silver City, a small town in the historic Comstock District, also spoke in favor of AB180. Many said they fear a mining company doing exploration in the town could use eminent domain to take their homes and property, something that was done in the 1970s.
Horne, Leslie and others said while actual takings of property might be infrequent, the mining companies will use the threat of eminent domain to their advantage in trying to pressure someone.
Backers of the bills said eminent domain should be reserved for enhancing the greater community good, as opposed to corporate interests.
Another bill, AB186, seeks to allow the state to invoke eminent domain to acquire property managed or controlled by the federal government for renewable energy projects.