Nevada ARRA Projects

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American Flat-Comstock United Merger Mill Abandoned Mine Site
Proposal Studies American Flat Public Safety Issues

Project: Develop a proposal through an environmental assessment to abate safety hazards at the United Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat in Storey County, Nevada.

ARRA Funding Level: $385,000

Progress: (completed)

February 2, 2011: $396,331 obligated, $332,137 spent.  Unspent funds released back to BLM Nevada State Office.

Linda Kelly, BLM Sierra Front Field Office Manager signed the Decision Record and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat EA on December 8, 2010. The decision is to demolish all of the structures and completely reclaim the site. Members of the public assisted BLM in developing alternatives in the EA to reduce serious safety hazards while documenting and mitigating possible impacts to cultural and historical resources. BLM hosted public open house scoping meetings regarding the proposal on April 27, 2010, in Carson City and on April 28, 2010, in Virginia City, receiving a number of substantive comments. These comments were used to develop possible management alternatives in the EA to reduce site safety hazards while protecting, documenting and mitigating possible impacts to cultural and historical resources. Alternatives developed included full or partial demolition or other measures to protect the public, such as fencing and site security. A 30-day appeal period extended to January 8, 2011; no appeals were received and the ARRA portion of this project is considered completed. 

A draft Memorandum of Agreement between BLM and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office will be completed at a future date, but this action is not considered part of the ARRA process. 

December 8, 2010: Decision Record signed to demolish site.

Completion date target: February 1, 2011. 

Benefits and Needs: A recent audit by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General has identified the abandoned property as a continuing high-risk public safety hazard responsible for a death and numerous injuries and as a liability to the U.S. Government.

Background: The United Comstock Merger Mill was built in 1922 to process local gold and silver ore utilizing cyanide vat leaching in what was then described as the largest concrete mill in the United States, which makes it historically significant. Since abandonment in 1924, this seven-acre mill site has been used as a place to hold parties, post graffiti, and conduct paintball wars despite physical safety hazards from falling concrete, underground mill sumps filled with water, and holes in the concrete flooring.

View of Building 3 looking northeast.     Cyanide Tank Foundations
American Flat-Comstock United Merger                  American Flat-Comstock United Merger 
Mill - Building 3: View of Building 3 looking             Mill - Cyanide Tank Foundations: View of the
northeast. Note degraded condition                       foundations for the cyanide tanks looking  
and recreational tagging.                                     southeast with the Pine Nut Mountains 
                                                                        in the background.