A small item on the agenda for the June 19 county commissioner’s meeting turned into a battle of wills between commissioners and Waterton Global Mining Company, a Toronto, Canada private investment firm in metals and mining.
Waterton bought its land from a former mining company located near the Mineral County ghost town and cemetery of Aurora. By the end of the meeting the company realized it doesn’t necessarily own the county road that runs through it.
The dispute concerns boulders placed across a county road that offers access to the historic Aurora cemetery. Georgana Mayne of the Mineral County Museum testified to the commissioners that Great Basin Mining, the former owner of the land, closed off the main access road illegally and built an alternate access road to the cemetery.
Mayne called the alternate road dangerous because of its steep grade, poor visibility and slippery gravel. She also said the poor condition of the road would inhibit a dedicatory celebration of Nevada’s sesquicentennial and placement of a monument at the site.
John Tennert, an attorney retained by Waterton Global, argued the company needed to limit access to the road because of perceived safety and security risks. At no time did he recognize the county’s ownership of the road.
During several exchanges with the commissioners, Tennert did offer to temporarily open the road only to facilitate the sesquicentennial celebration while reiterating the company’s opposition to removing the boulders for a significant length of time.
Commissioner Tipton, staring straight at Public Works Director Mike Trujillo, enunciated very clearly: “I have no problem telling you, Mikey, to open that road and rebuild it. Put it back to where it was.”
After subsequent exchanges Tennert recognized the commissioner’s resolve to open the road. He restated the company’s respect for the monument dedication but again maintained opposition to opening the road to public access.
The meeting ended with the agreement to meet again on August 21 at 1:30 p.m. Commissioners also issued a directive to Mineral County Public Works to remove the boulders as soon as possible.
Commissioner Jerri Tipton’s resolve never wavered throughout. “This is about the third or fourth one I’ve dealt with. I know of about five Supreme Court cases in the state of Nevada over just this kind of thing,” Tipton said.
Tipton added that records show the road as maintained by either Esmeralda or Mineral county tax dollars since 1881. She added it was Waterton’s responsibility to know that before the purchase. “They didn’t do their due diligence when they bought the place,” Tipton concluded.