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The Nevada Independent

Sisolak plans to reconstitute mining oversight board that stopped meeting in 2015

Daniel Rothberg
Daniel Rothberg
EnvironmentGovernment
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Trucks at mine site.

Gov. Steve Sisolak plans to revive a mining oversight board — with the power to request audits, review regulations, call witnesses and subpoena documents — after state officials let the commission quietly wither in the six years since it held its last recorded meeting. 

In 2011, the Legislature approved the Mining Oversight and Accountability Commission with a bipartisan vote. But the board, meant to function similarly to the Gaming Commission, never fully got off the ground, even when it had a quorum. The board, housed in the Department of Taxation, lacked resources, former board members told The Nevada Independent last year. 

Sisolak’s office confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the governor plans to make five appointments to the seven-member panel with the intention of restarting meetings. 

Under the statute governing the commission, legislative leaders from both parties are required to submit recommendations for members to the governor’s office. The governor must choose five members from among those selections, and he can appoint two members of his own choosing. Only two members of the commission are allowed to have a connection to the mining industry. 

Sisolak plans to appoint Jerry Pfarr, a former vice president with Newmont, and Anthony Ruiz, a  senior adviser of government relations and community affairs for Nevada State College. 

Based on recommendations from Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), Sisolak also plans to appoint Jose Witt, executive director of the Southern Nevada Conservancy, and Pam Harrington, a field coordinator with Trout Unlimited who is based in northeastern Nevada, where the state’s largest mining entity, Nevada Gold Mines, operates large mines and ranches.

Sisolak’s fifth appointment, recommended by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), will be Melissa Clary, the office confirmed. Former Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Clary to the commission in January 2018, but her term expired without her attending a single meeting.

The governor’s office is still working with legislative leaders on the final two appointments.

It is unclear how the still relatively new commission will function and what oversight it will provide an industry that carries significant influence throughout state government. Legislators have discussed, on several occasions, doing away with the board, but mining watchdog groups have long argued that there is still a role for the commission to discuss issues with the industry. 

Most of the state’s mines operate outside of Nevada’s large metropolitan areas, but they have a significant influence in the state’s rural economy, workforce and natural resources. Reviving the commission comes as state policymakers from both parties are actively pushing for Nevada to become a key destination for mining the critical metals, including lithium, needed in the supply chain for electric vehicles and other technologies that could help address climate change. 

In 2021, the Fraser Institute, a Canadian public policy organization, ranked Nevada as the most attractive place in the world for mining investment. The report ranked nearly 80 jurisdictions based on their geologic potential and whether government policies encourage investment.

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