As the race for Mayor heats up in West Wendover the issue of the Long Canyon Mine looms larger and larger.
Incumbent Donnie Andersen has become a firm supporter of the project that could eventually employ upwards of 500 workers and perhaps hundreds more in tertiary impacts in just the next five years.
While giving lip service support to Long Canyon, Andersen’s challenger councilwoman Emily Carter is immeasurably cooler to the project dismissing its potential beneficial impacts and stressing its potential harm to West Wendover.
“My chief concern is Wendover’s water,” Andersen said. “But I know we can reach a fair arrangement with Newmont without extorting them.”
Andersen was referring to a letter sent to Newmont, the owner of the Long Canyon Mine, by the Wendover Water Working Group, which demanded not only a cash payment of a half a million dollars a year for as long the mine is in operation but also asked the company to fund the search and development of new water sources, guarantee the loan of the Johnson Spring Pipeline and various other demands.
According to Newmont Director External Relations Mary Korpi the company’s engineers estimated price tag for the entire laundry list was pegged it at around $40 million. Newmont’s figure is within shouting distance of the Working Group’s own estimated at just under $30 million according to sources.
But even the lower figure is considered a non starter by the mining company.
“Newmont was surprised on Friday, June 22, when we received a detailed proposal regarding a variety of financial and non-financial considerations under which the Cities would be the beneficiary.” Korpi said echoing comments made two weeks ago by Newmont’s local liaison Pamela Smith that the demands were simply not realistic.
Through its acquisition of the Big Springs Ranch property, Newmont owns one third of the water rights of Johnson Springs with the remaining one third owned by the city of West Wendover and Las Vegas businessman Ray Koroghli.
The spring and the wells supply a major part of West Wendover’s and Wendover Utah’s water supply and the development of the Johnson Springs system and pipeline proved crucial to the Wendover boom in the 1980’s.
Carter in a page one editorial more or less back the Water Group’s demands while Andersen has vigorously opposed them.
“First of all I can barely stomach that this letter was prepared with very little if any public input and that it was sent without my knowledge but with my name on it,” Andersen said. “Of course protecting our water should be the major consideration but there is a huge difference between that and asking for something so outrageous the other side just gets up and leaves.”
Anderson’s sentiments were repeated by Wendover, Utah Mayor Mike Crawford. While a member of the working group Crawford distanced himself from the confidential proposal when interviewed earlier this month.
“My number one concern is that the water system is not threatened,” Crawford said. “But we in Wendover, Utah want to see this project go through. West Wendover can write whatever kind of comment they want but they won’t be speaking for Wendover, Utah or for the water system which we are a 50 percent partner.”
Carter’s stance on mine is not new, as early as two years ago long before the Water Working group was even formed she voiced her ‘grave concerns’ about the project and its impact on Wendover.
Neither is it the first time the two candidates have tangled over growth.
Three years ago Andersen argued forcibly if unsuccessfully for the city council to overturn a new ordinance limiting new casino development to only casino/hotels while Carter was the major advocate in maintaining the ordinance which resulted in the bankruptcy of the rusty Palms project and the loss of some 50 jobs.
“Emily and the rest of the council always say they are for growth and development,” Andersen added. “But they always put up so many conditions on new business that most don’t come. If I win reelection and have a new council I can work with Wendover will be open again for business. Some people might be happy with the way things are going but I don’t want my kids or their friends looking at minimum wage jobs in the casinos for a future.”