Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013 | 1:40 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013 | 2:20 p.m.
Gold and silver mining operations near Searchlight could start up by the end of the year, after the mine owners received the go-ahead from Clark County commissioners on Wednesday.
The issue: Nevada Milling and Mining LLC sought a variety of permits and approvals to commence a mining operation centered on two existing mine shafts at a site 1.5 miles north of Searchlight.
The vote: The project was approved unanimously.
What it means: A miniature gold rush is on at the 115-year-old Coyote Mine.
Owners hope to start extracting gold and silver from the 38-acre site in the next three to six months, but they’re still waiting on several air quality and construction permits before work can begin.
No one is quite sure how much lies buried in the hills known as the Opal Mountains, but initial estimates have the company processing 6,000 to 10,000 ounces of gold per year for at least the next five to seven years. Gold prices reached as high as $1,750 an ounce in the past year but have dropped in recent months and are fluctuating around $1,450.
The site will use a chemical-free process for extracting the minerals and is authorized to process 36,499 tons of ore a year under a state permit.
Prospectors first began mining in the Opal Mountains in 1898, but gold production in the area quickly tailed off in the early part of the 20th century, according to state documents.
Proposals to restart the mine were floated late last year, but it took several months to iron out details in the plan, which is the only mining operation of its kind in Clark County.
Nevada Milling and Mining and county staff took those extra months to meet with residents and make sure they wouldn’t be adversely affected by the mine, commissioner Steve Sisolak said.
“We’ve meeting’d this to death,” said Sisolak, whose district includes Searchlight. “The residents are happy with the jobs it will bring. It will be interesting to see how much gold they get out of there.”
Lemurs, capybaras and opossums — but no lions or tigers — could be coming to the southwest valley after Clark County commissioners approved a new zoo in the area Wednesday.
The issue: Wild Adventures Zoo sought permission from the county to build a facility capable of holding up to 200 small and medium-sized animals on two acres near Blue Diamond Road.
The vote: Approved 6-1. Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani voted in opposition because of her objection to keeping exotic animals as pets.
What it means: Wild Adventures Zoo will have a new location near Blue Diamond Road and Torrey Pines Drive after operating out of a home for several years.
The operation is currently a “Zoo to You” program that takes the animals into the community for school demonstrations and other events. With the opening of the new location, President Stacey Weiss said, the nonprofit zoo will be open to the public to visit and interact with the animals four days a week.
The zoo will feature only small to mid-sized animals, such as sugar gliders, hedgehogs and Coatimundi, members of the raccoon family, Weiss said. There won’t be any large carnivores and definitely not any chimpanzees, which made headlines locally after two escapes last year, she said.
The zoo is already licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and will require approval from animal control once the enclosures, fencing and shade structures are built. Weiss said construction will start soon and plans are to have the zoo open by the end of the summer.
“We need family friendly entertainment that’s also educational. There’s not a lot of that here,” she said. “Our whole premise is about treating animals with respect by getting one on one and interacting with them.”
The commission’s approval came with a one-year review of the project. If the zoo stays open past the first year, it will be required to upgrade the parking and access roads leading to the facility.
“It’s an interesting concept…I feel you’re passion and what you’re attempting to do,” said Commissioner Susan Brager, whose district includes the zoo. “I’d like to give you that opportunity to see where you can go in the next year.”