We learned today that Blue Lead Mine LLC has formally appealed to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to reverse the May 27th decision by the Planning Commission against the vested right to mine.
Blue Lead bases its complete case for vesting on unproven speculations about the activities of Grass Valley historian and Union typesetter, Lyle White, in October of 1954, when the county passed its first zoning ordinance. The claim for vesting depends entirely on whether a lawful mining enterprise was being conducted by anyone on the subject site in that month of that year.
Blue Lead would like to believe that Lyle White was conducting such an enterprise with the permission of the owner at the time, Alpha Stores, but there’s no credible evidence of such activity, much less permission by the owner. The few pictures offered as “evidence” by Blue Lead either do not depict the subject site or do not depict activities in 1954 or do not depict activities which can clearly be called mining.
The new evidence presented at the May 27th Planning Commission meeting most fatal to Blue Lead’s application was the revelation that Lyle White was working full-time at The Union and living in Grass Valley during the years when he was supposed by Blue Lead to be conducting a serious and substantial mining operation in the vicinity of You Bet. He was also spending a considerable amount of his own spare time maintaining the Red Dog Cemetery, an activity about which he kept fastidious expense records. He kept no records of any activities on the Blue Lead site, so it’s most reasonable to assume that there were none.
Local historian and publisher Dave Comstock knew Lyle White personally and has researched his life extensively. See Dave’s feature article in the July 2010 Nevada County Historical Society Bulletin (Volume 64, Number 3): “The Man Who Rediscovered Red Dog” (not available online). Comstock quotes White’s own account of his activities in that part of the county in 1954:
“Because of my previous interest in old cemeteries, I had been reading newspaper items for several years about the increasing theft of tombstones and other vandalism in old cemeteries. It immediately occurred to me that the Red Dog Cemetery which had been protected for perhaps 40 or 50 years, just by being lost in the brush, was now vulnerable by being easily accessible, and because of its utterly abandoned appearance, would probably be a prime target for thieves and grave robbers.
“I guessed that of the Cemetery looked as if someone were working on it, perhaps vandals and thieves might possibly have enough respect to leave it as they found it. So my recreation for the rest of that day was spent cutting brush and piling it in an open place. Later when the weather was damp and safe it could be burned.
“From then on, starting in 1954, I tried to spend three or four days a month in the Red Dog area for recreation and on many of those days I would spend several hours in the cemetery, first cutting all the brush in the central area where the monuments were concentrated, shoveling and raking up the deep bed of ‘duff’ (leaves, pine needles) and piling it where i could burn it safely during the wet winter months.”
The video below is of Dave Comstock’s May 27th testimony to the Planning Commission, in which he says he wants to “speak for Lyle White.” At the conclusion of that meeting, the current owner of Blue Lead, Robert White (no relation to Lyle) angrily accused Dave Comstock of “having an agenda.”
I’ve spoken to Dave and it’s clear to me that his only agenda is to get the truth of Lyle White’s life on the record for all to understand. In the video, he concludes by referring to Lyle White as “a great man.”
Blue Lead has engaged in extravagant speculation about Lyle White in order to support its own financial interests, and in the process has done a disservice to all legitimate vested rights applicants.
Local supporters of both mining and vested rights should oppose Blue Lead’s application, because such a poorly argued claim will make it more likely that legitimate vested rights applications in the future will be greeted with considerable skepticism.