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October 22, 2014

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Congress clears Henderson to buy, clean up toxic mine site

Image

Courtesy Google

Approximate location of The Three Kids Mine Area, which the city has renamed Lakemoor Canyon. Lakemoor was the site of manganese mining during Henderson’s formative years, providing the base mineral that drove magnesium production at the manufacturing plants that spawned the city.

An abandoned mine outside Henderson could go from toxic eyesore to residential high-rises after Congress approved the sale more than 900 acres of federal land to the city of Henderson.

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday allowing the Bureau of Land Management to sell its portion of the old Three Kids Mine to the city, which will in turn contract with a private developer to clean up the land. From there, the sky’s the limit for a developer, who could build a residential community on what is now sheer-cliff open pits and poisonous waste ponds.

The House of Representatives approved the sale in July 2013. Legislation to sell the land was first introduced by Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican who represents Henderson and Boulder City, in February 2013.

The news is “a win for southern Nevada’s economy,” Heck said in a statement. “I’m glad the delegation was able to work together to turn this dangerous liability into an economic development opportunity for our community.”

The public-private partnership won’t cost the federal government a dime, though it took a multi-year effort among Henderson officials, state officials and the federal government to reach the deal, Heck said.

The estimated cost to clean up the mine, which also includes 300 acres of privately owned land, is about $300 million.

The bill requires the government to take into account the cost of the cleanup when it sells it to the city, meaning Henderson won’t be paying top dollar for the land.

The Three Kids Mine bustled during the first part of the 20th century, churning out manganese, an important metal, especially during the world wars. The mine, which sits on 1,260 acres near Lake Las Vegas, has been abandoned since 1967.

In written statements, Nevada’s delegation praised the legislation, which now heads to the president to be signed into law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, called the old mine a “danger and an eyesore to the nearby residents.”

Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, said he was “pleased this bill will help bring jobs to the Henderson area and encourage economic development in a region that needs it badly.”

Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat, said, “This bill will not only ensure the reclamation and redevelopment of long-dormant, industrial lands, it will also lead to new jobs and economic opportunities for our region.”

Lands bills have been tough to get through Congress in the past few years, in part because some conservatives oppose on principle of transferring or creating federal land.

It’s not clear if passage of the Three Kids Mine bill signals good news for other Nevada lands bills stuck in Congress, such as building a copper mine in Lyon County or creating a national monument at Tule Springs in the northern Las Vegas Valley.

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