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Suzanne Featherston / Suzanne Featherston  

Marigold Mine Chief Surveyor Alan Clayson lands a drone near a leach pad. SSR Mining Inc. began the process of incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles at this Nevada mine in January.

Mines adopt drone technology

ELKO — The use unmanned aerial vehicles at mines is taking off in Northern Nevada as operators apply the technology to tasks such as surveying and inspections.

The Federal Aviation Administration made way for the commercial use of drones, such as work at mines, when it updated commercial operation rules for small UAVs effective August 2016. Instead of requiring a pilot’s license, the federal government allows an operator to pass an aeronautical knowledge test to be able to fly commercially under certain restrictions.

Drone-based businesses have since launched to answer the growing demand for drone equipment and services.

Pennsylvania-based Identified Technologies serves the SSR Mining Inc. Marigold Mine in Valmy by providing a drone and data-processing services. In January, the company began training its staff and started to work flights into its routine at the run-of-mine heap leach operation.

On a blue-sky day in early October, Marigold Mine Chief Surveyor Alan Clayson unpacked a tote containing a DJI-brand drone with four helicopter blades and coordinating equipment for a demonstration flight.

Watching was Identified Technologies CEO Dick Zhang, visiting the mine on a customer service call. Zhang started the business almost five years ago and got his start serving the construction industry.

“We’ve come so far. It’s so satisfying, so fulfilling,” Zhang said, explaining how his role at Marigold has morphed from trainer to spectator now that the mining staff is trained and certified.

Clayton and another employee earned their remote pilot certification through the FAA by completing an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-certified testing center. Marigold staff said they could have another person certified by the end of the year.

After the startup protocol, everyone stood back while Clayson launched the craft. It ascended with a buzzing sound like a mob of mosquitoes and stirred a low cloud of dust. Soon, the small flyer was a mere speck in the sky.

The drone automatically followed a line pattern according to the flight plan and captured data for about 14 minutes while Clayson monitored the object and tablet.

“Most of the magic of the process is after the flight,” Zhang said, describing his company’s data processing services.

At Marigold, the technology is used mainly for making topographic maps for reports and audits; taking detailed aerial photos of leach pads for solution application management; and inspecting slopes and high-walls in areas with limited access to search for tension cracks, settling and bench integrity.

Future uses at Marigold could include providing power infrastructure inspections, and creating multispectral and thermal maps to improve solution application management and detect hot spots in equipment.

The technology helps save the company manpower and money.

“With traditional methods, it took 20 hours of surveying and processing labor to obtain a detailed survey of a specific section of the mine site,” Identified Technologies stated in a press release. “Using Identified Technologies’ drone solution, the same results were achieved with [one] hour of work. This has allowed SSR to increase speed and productivity, without increasing staffing costs and headcount, while decreasing the frequency of its full site flyovers.”

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Holiday Tour of Homes is Dec. 2

ELKO — The Elko County CattleWomen are encouraging folks to”beef up” the holidays by attending the 11th annual Holiday Tour of Homes on Dec. 2.

The tour will showcase four local residences and their holiday decor. The four homes this year belong to the Secrist, Slusher, Chandler and Hill families. Décor styles will range from traditional to contemporary and will highlight each family’s unique approach of celebrating the holiday.

Tour-goers will enjoy beef appetizers and Christmas treats while they look in awe at each home’s holiday splendor. Attendees can collect beef recipes and will also be able to purchase the Elko County CattleWomen’s renowned “The Real Ranch Cookbook” and the trendy “I [heart] Beef” T-shirts.

Proceeds from this event will benefit the Elko County CattleWomen’s Beef for Seniors, education and scholarship programs.

This year the Holiday Tour of Homes will run from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for a single, $25 for a couple, and are available in Elko at Evergreen Flower Shop and JM Capriola Co.; in Spring Creek at The Buzz Salon; and in Wells at The Purple Door.

Tickets will also be available at 1831 Royal Crest Drive the night of the event. Sorry, no kids under the age of 12.

For more information contact Kathi Wines at 934-2815 or Rachel Buzzetti at 738-4082.

Deer hunting limited in Western US states after tough winter

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Hunting guide Mike Clark normally has more than 20 clients lined up each fall for trips deep into Wyoming’s western wilderness to shoot mule deer, prized by hunters for their size and impressive antlers.

But unusually cold weather and heavy snowfall that blanketed much of the Western U.S. last winter killed off many young deer. And that prompted wildlife officials throughout the Rocky Mountain states to take measures such as reducing the number of hunting permits to try to help devastated wildlife populations rebound.

Clark took only six mule deer hunters out in September and October who were lucky enough to get permits. He estimated that he lost 40 percent of his income as a result. If it wasn’t for the hunters he was guiding this year to shoot elk that generally survived the brutal winter, Clark said, “We’d pretty much be selling out.”

In one remote part of Wyoming’s backcountry where peaks soar to 11,000 feet, state wildlife managers documented the loss of all fawns they had been monitoring in a mule deer herd.

To help the herd recover, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission reduced the number of deer permits for out-of-state residents from 600 to 400 in the area where Clark operates, cut the hunting season to 22 days and limited hunters to killing older bucks.

Officials won’t know how effective their efforts will be until hunting season ends in January and hunters submit reports saying how many deer they killed.

Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington state also imposed hunting limits to help isolated wildlife herds recover from the winter. Deer were hit hardest in most of those states, while Washington had severe losses among several of its elk herds.

In southern and central Idaho, last winter’s fawn survival rate was just 30 percent, prompting a reduction in deer hunting permits to help herds boost their numbers, said Mike Keckler, spokesman for the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

“We’re trying to bring them back up,” he said.

And in Washington, the number of elk hunting permits was cut drastically in some parts of the state where elk died in droves, said Brock Hoenes, statewide elk specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The area of Wyoming where Clark takes hunters is known as one of the best places in the world to hunt mule deer, state Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay said. He added that the decision to limit permits was difficult for state officials to make.

Clark said his business will survive the downturn but that his future guiding hunters is uncertain if wildlife managers reduce the number of mule deer hunting permits for nonresidents again next year.

“Otherwise, none of us are going to have any deer hunters,” he said.

2 teens say no one stopping racist bullying in Yerington

YERINGTON (AP) — Three months into Taylissa Marriott’s freshman year at a rural northern Nevada high school, she was brought to tears by someone, again, calling her a racial slur.

This time, Taylissa told the Reno Gazette-Journal, it was within earshot of a Yerington High School teacher who stood silent in the hallway.

She and her sister are two of only a few black students in the high school of just under 400 students in rural Nevada, 90 minutes southeast of from Reno.

Taylissa’s mom, Nancy Marriott-Tolliver and stepfather, Charles Tolliver, say Taylissa and her stepsister, Jayla Tolliver, both 14, have been the victims of repeated racial bullying at school.

The parents say their pleas for action from district administrators and police have been ignored.

Charles Tolliver said he called the principal a bigot, and school officials banned him from school grounds without prior permission.

Tensions increased after photos of a Lyon County sheriff’s deputy’s son holding a gun and wearing a belt with knives were posted on social media on Oct. 8 with threats against black people, using a racial slur.

It was unclear who wrote the comments, but Taylissa and Jayla stayed home from school the next day. They filled out police reports. They worried when they went outside.

Yerington Mayor George Dini dismissed the posts as the act of teenagers ignorant of what they were doing and meaning no harm.

Lyon County Superintendent Wayne Workman said the school district did what it could when it informed Yerington police.

But Yerington Police Chief Darren Wagner told the Gazette-Journal he didn’t investigate because the posts represented free speech.

“This is just a First Amendment issue. I did not do an investigation because there is nothing to investigate,” Wagner said. He said he didn’t interview the students who made the posts or the boy posing in the picture, and statements the family filled out were shredded by a police officer new to the department.

“It’s awful what was said, and I don’t condone it,” the police chief said.

Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil confirmed the boy pictured was the son of one of his deputies. McNeil said the post appeared to be a foolish mistake by young people, not a credible threat, but he said Yerington police should have investigated.

School officials say they can’t comment on what actions, if any, were taken against the students involved in the Oct. 8 post.

Principal Duane Mattice said the school is doing everything it can to address bullying. He said a unity day is planned in December to celebrate all cultures, and a committee of people of different backgrounds was formed to improve respect for all races.

Yerington has a little more than 3,000 residents and fewer than 20 are black.

Taylissa Marriott’s family said moving to a town and experiencing bigotry has been hard.

“I just feel sick,” Jayla said. “You shouldn’t judge someone from their skin color. We are all the same.”

“People say they don’t like our kind,” Taylissa said. “It’s not stopping. It’s 2017. You would think racial stuff would be over, but it’s not.”

The Reno-Sparks chapter of the NAACP is investigating the allegations of threats and bullying.

“You can say you don’t like (a certain race) but when you say you are going to kill them, that is different,” said Lonnie Feemster, the past president of the local chapter and now the vice president overseeing NAACP programs in Nevada, Utah and Idaho.

Amy Rose, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said criminal speech must be a credible threat or incite imminent unlawful behavior.