The owners of a mining property in Nevada are being forced off their land by the U.S. Air Force, which is seeking to expand its testing capabilities near and around the secretive Area 51 military base.
Last month, the Air Force gave owners of the Groom Mine, which overlooks the notorious government installation at Groom Lake, the option to accept a “last best offer” of $5.2 million or face forfeit and eviction under eminent domain laws.
“The land has become an increasingly greater safety and security risk as demand for test and training opportunities have increased,” a press release from Nellis Air Force Base said last month.
But the land’s property owners have as yet stood firm, refusing the government’s offer.
Mine co-owners and cousins Joseph and Barbara Sheahan say they and some 20 other co-owners would rather keep the land their forebearers worked hard to tend for over a century.
“What they really want to buy is our property, our access rights and our view,” Henderson, Nevada, resident Joseph Sheahan, 54, told the Associated Press.
“We prefer to keep our property, but it’s for sale under the right price at the right conditions,” said Sheahan. “Why don’t they ask themselves what it cost my family over the years in blood, sweat, tears and money?”
The Sheahan’s mines have been in their family since the 1800s, starting with applications for mineral rights patents back in May 1876, which the family shows were signed by 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant.
The land surrounding the mine’s nearly 400-acre property has increasingly grown inhabited by the feds, who say they ultimately want to utilize the property “because the size and remoteness of the area enables military test and training activities that cannot be completed in other national training areas,” according to Col. Thomas Dempsey.
A letter from the Sheahan’s grandparents to the US attorney general in 1959 indicates government nuclear testing around the area contributed to the decline of their ore mining industry, reports the AP.
“Nuclear tests then began in 1951, their mine mill mysteriously exploded in 1954 and they ran out of money to seek reparations from the government in 1959,” writes the AP’s Ken Ritter.
The Air Force contends its attempt to forcefully eject the land owners will increase national security, and could ultimately save taxpayers millions.
“We understand the landowners’ connection to the land, but we must also consider the demands of national security,” said Jennifer Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations.
Groom Lake is familiar to investigators of extraterrestrial lore and fans of The X-Files as the location of Area 51, the government’s ultra-clandestine test site which many believe is used to study secretive hyper-propulsion technologies.
The Groom Mine owners have set up a Facebook page dedicated to saving Groom Mine.