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Settlement Proposed in Lawsuit between Presidio County and Shafter Mine

An expected economic boost from the Shafter Mine into Presidio County never materialized (Lorne Matalon)

The Presidio County Appraisal District has agreed to propose a settlement in the legal dispute between the Shafter Silver Mine and the county over the mine's appraised tax value.

As we've reported, the appraisal district and Rio Grande Mining Company/Aurcana Corporation have been in talks over the mine's assessed value since 2012. (Aurcana aquired the mine from Rio Grande in 2008.) Most recently, the company sued the district over the mine's value for 2013, saying it was too high.

After a closed-door session with its legal counsel yesterday in Marfa, the district agreed to propose a settlement that would set the mine's appraisal at $38 million for 2013.

The agreement would also settle the disputed issue of the mine's value for the 2012 year. The company also fought that original appraisal, but those talks were complicated when a clerical error on the county's end resulted in the mine being billed for millions fewer in taxes than it should have been. Rio Grande Mining threatened to sue again if the county came calling for the difference.

Rio Grande Mining has yet to say whether it will accept the settlement deal, but appraisal district board member Carlos Nieto tells KRTS he's hopeful they will, saying attorneys for the county and the company have been in talks over this agreement for some time now.

Nieto says that although the county will be suffering what he describes as a "pretty substantial" loss in tax revenue from the settlement, he's still pleased with the outcome.

"I'm optimistic this matter is now behind us," Nieto says, "windows of opportunity for both parties coming to agreement on this settlement is very encouraging and positive."

When asked at Wednesday's meeting why the county agreed to settle outside of court, Nieto said the legal costs, time and resources of a trial would've been a burden for the county.

Lorne Matalon joined us this morning to talk about how the owners of the Shafter mine aren't the only ones looking to the courts for tax breaks - listen above for that conversation.


Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.