Nevada Legislature Considers Public Access Requirements for Pit Lakes

Nevada Assembly Bill 346

The Nevada Legislature is considering an amendment to its state mining laws to require mine operators to provide public access to larger “pit lakes” that exist after mining ends.

For reference, a so-called “pit lake” results when a mine operation leaves an excavated area in place after mining ends. Over time, these excavations tend to fill with groundwater or storm runoff. The ultimate size of the lake depends on the topography and factors such as inflow, outflow and evaporation. Often, it takes years or decades until final water levels are reached.

Assembly Bill 346 addresses only larger pit lakes – those having a predicted surface area of greater than 200 acres. For these lakes, the bill would require “at least one point of public nonmotorized access” to the predicted water level of the lake at 90 percent of capacity. The new requirement would be incorporated, as necessary, into future reclamation plans via Nevada’s existing reclamation statute, NRS 519A.230.

Fortunately, for landowners and mine operators, the current version of AB 346 includes protections to curb liability claims should visiting members of the public become injured from conditions on the property. This protection broadly applies to past or present owners, operators, contractors, agents and employees of the operation.

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