WHEN SOMEONE DIGS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

MINERS--SPURRED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY AND INPENDING REGULATORY REFORM--SCURRY TO LOCK UP MINERAL RIGHTS. RESIDENTS OF WALKER, ARIZONA, FEAR THEY'RE ABOUT TO GET THE SHAFT.

Quietly, Marra/Majestic bought up the mineral rights to the Midnight Snap, an old mining claim on which McCabe's home sits.

Like most of the people in Walker--and like most property owners, in general--McCabe owns her land, but not the minerals underneath the surface. The purchase raises the possibility that Marra/Majestic may be interested in not only raiding public lands, but the property of those troublemakers who, for instance, block the use of a much-needed road.

"How can I not interpret this as some kind of threat?" McCabe asks. "I mean, what else could this be about?"
Company officials deny threatening McCabe or using the mineral rights to her property as a lever. Parks says that the mineral rights were purchased only as "an insurance policy" against other miners trying to "horn in" on the Marra/Majestic claims.

But when pressed about the possibility of expanding operations onto property like the Midnight Snap, Parks and Ross reply with a qualified maybe.

After all, if the King Pin yields a rich lode, if excavations--scheduled to begin by the end of summer--show that there are, in fact, millions of dollars in gold down in that deep, dark hole, wouldn't they want to expand operations, turning Walker into one giant mine, if necessary?

Ross clasps his hands and grins broadly, gazing skyward in mock prayer.
"If that happens," he acknowledges, "then anything is possible.

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