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Litter Maker Sues Over Mine Claim

April 12, 2002|From Associated Press

RENO — Raising the stakes in their claim to prime clay deposits, Oil-Dri Corp. officials filed a federal lawsuit against Washoe County on Thursday over their right to build a cat litter mine and processing plant.

In a legal battle based on a 130-year-old law that both sides say could prove precedent-setting, the largest maker of cat litter in the world says the county had no authority to block the mining project on federal land on the outskirts of Reno.

"Denial of this special use permit is in direct violation of Oil-Dri's rights under the 1872 Mining Law," Oil-Dri lawyer Stephen Mollath said Thursday after the filing in U.S. District Court.

County officials were confident they would prevail in court, and environmentalists vowed to help.

"When we win, it will be precedent-setting against the mining law," said Tom Myers, director of the Great Basin Mine Watch in Reno.

"Our position is that the claim is not valid if they cannot get their local permits, and they did not get their local permits, so the claim is not valid," he said.

Conservationists long have targeted the mining law for reform. They say the law, intended to encourage Western expansion through mining for gold and silver in the 19th century, is being abused to get at the clay for premium cat litter.

Washoe County last month rejected Oil-Dri's request for a special permit for the mining and processing plant, citing concerns about noise, air pollution and increased truck traffic.

The project is proposed on 300 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands bordering the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony 10 miles north of downtown.

In addition to the mining law, Oil-Dri said in the lawsuit that the county's denial of the permit contradicts conditions set forth by the Washoe County air quality permit, the Nevada state reclamation permit, the Nevada state engineer and BLM's record of decision.

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