Board approves $8M in mining refunds

The state Board of Examiners on Tuesday approved paying $8.18 million in refunds to Nevada mining claim holders.

Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp told the board that's about half the estimated $18 million in payments that the repeal of the mining claim fee will cost the state. He said the money was planned for in the executive budget.

Altogether, 335 refund requests were filed with the state, but most of them are for small amounts of money. Some $3.8 million of the total will go to the largest mining company in the state, Barrick Gold.

The same law, approved in the 2010 special session of the Legislature, also cut back mining industry deductions and created a commission to oversee the mining industry in Nevada.

The board also approved its first authorization allowing an agency to hire a former employee. Those hires must now come to the board to prevent recurrences of ex-state workers' leaving state service and immediately signing a contract to do the same work but for much more money. There were also instances in which a state worker would contract to do work for another agency while still on the payroll in his primary job.

In this case, Nuclear Projects Coordinator Bob Halstead said the request was necessitated by events putting life back into the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project. He said there is a "serious effort by House Republicans" to move the dump project forward despite President Barack Obama's decision pulling funding from the licensing effort. In addition, he said, a federal court case, filed by South Carolina and Texas over the nuclear waste, is moving forward. Both, he said, will come to a head in January or February.

Halstead told the board the only person with the expertise to handle those issues for Nevada is Joe Strolin, who retired from doing just that at Nuclear Projects after more than 20 years.

In addition, he said, hiring Strolin will save the state up to $100,000 because Strolin has agreed to take the contract for just $50,000.

"I don't want to say Yucca Mountain is alive," he said. "Our job is to keep Yucca Mountain dead."

In addition, the board - consisting of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general - approved a settlement agreement to pay $25 million to owners of a 7-acre parcel of land along the Las Vegas Strip needed for widening and improvements to I-15 from the Martin Luther King Connection to the Charleston Interchange. NDOT Director Susan Martinovich said the work will cure "a huge chokepoint on I-15."

Sandoval questioned lawyers about the contract using state contingency fund money to pay lawyers defending the University of Nevada Reno from lawsuits filed by former UNR coach Teri Patraw. He asked whether the university system was helping cover the legal costs. He was told no by both system lawyer Joe Ward and Assistant Attorney General Keith Munro, who said that the state's contingency fund has always been available to cover costs of outside counsel for the system since the suits are against a state agency.

"This is the normal process for paying these claims," Munro said.

The $30,000 contract expansion raises total costs to the state to $360,000 in those cases.

Outside Counsel Kent Robison told the governor the case is going well.

"We feel pretty good about it," he said.


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