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Court reinstates Opp Mine suit

The Opp Mine lawsuit is back in action after a federal appeals court decision Wednesday.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit brought against Jackson County for its refusal to issue a mining permit for the Opp Mine in Jacksonville, according to Medford attorney Thad Guyer, who represents the mine owner.

Wednesday's decision is the latest in a lawsuit that dates back to 1994, when Jackson County denied property owner Bernadine Wynnyk and her daughter and son-in-law, Sandra and Frank Hardin, a permit to extract aggregate from 30 acres of their 117-acre parcel.

During the appeal, Ms. Wynnyk died, and her daughter is continuing the suit.

The Opp Mine property on Reservoir Road near Jacksonville was once mined for gold and has a series of tunnels throughout.

The decision comes two years after the federal district court in Medford granted the county's motion to dismiss the case. The court required Wynnyk to take her claims to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

— But Guyer argued that citizens have a right to have federal claims determined in a federal court, even when state land-use laws are involved, and the appeals court agreed.

Frank Hardin and Medford attorney Bob Robertson, business partners in Jackson Creek Sand Co., want to excavate and haul aggregate from the site.

The appeals court decision reinstates Wynnyk's case in federal district court.

We're just delighted, said Robertson, adding that they hope to not only be able to mine but to collect damages for all the years they haven't been able to mine.

Guyer predicts the county will appeal the decision.

Attorneys for Jackson County did not immediately return phone calls late Wednesday afternoon.