Joe Sheahan and his family are in the fight of their lives to save the family’s Nevada mine from being stolen by the federal government.
The Sheahan family no longer holds the title to Groom Mine — which they had owned for 130 years — because the federal government took the deed through eminent domain after first offering the Sheahans $333,300, a price family lawyer James Leavitt called “embarrassingly low.”
Now the family is fighting back in federal court, and if they and the federal government can’t find common ground on a price, it will be presented to a jury.
What’s bizarre is what the federal government even wants with a stretch of land in a Nevada desert and an old mine that has been closed for a long time.
Of course it is bizarre, until you find out that it is part of Area 51, related to the infamous secret government program responsible for nuclear testing and anything other-worldly, like UFOs.
But the family has not been paid for the land. Initially, the family was sued by the federal government in 2015 in a complaint case of eminent domain.
Then, shortly after, the government filed a motion to take over the property. Now, appraisal reports are being exchanged in the discovery phase of the litigation.
If the parties cannot reach a sufficient value for the land, the Sheahans are prepared to fight it in a jury trial.
The mine hasn’t been in full operation since 1954, but until fall of 2015, family members went out from time to time to blast for minerals.
The 400 acres of land sits almost 6,000 feet above sea level with panoramic views of the surrounding Groom Mountain Range and borders the Nevada Test and Training Range.
And it has a clear view of Area 51.
The land has always been highly sought after by the U.S. Air Force base, looking to expand their flight-testing range.
Sheahan said, “They told me the land was like a suit hemmed in too tight that needed to breathe, that’s why they want our land.”
According to Sheahan, Air Force officials started showing up unannounced on the property in the 40s and 50s, intimidating his grandparents. He said his family complained to the Air Force, but nothing happened.
Then nuclear tests came without warning. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal archives, on January 27th, 1951, the Air Force detonated the first above-ground test on land next to the Groom Mine.
Sheahan said his family had no idea that the Air Force was testing nuclear bombs in the 50s and they had no idea what to do about it.
Sheahan said, “This bomb goes off, who do you call, who do you Google? There’s no one … those blasts did significant damage to the property, not only in radiation.”
Family members and miners in the area suffered long-term radiation effects and even some livestock died from beta burns.
In 2014, the Sheahan family was offered as much as $5.2 million from the Air Force, but they rejected the offer because it was too low.
Two years later, the government offered $333,000 and just confiscated the property.
Then the family hired experts to appraise the property after the seizure.
The experts’ findings claimed that due to its proximity to Area 51 and the mineral rights to the land, each appraiser recognized the “unique value” of the property and came to the conclusion that the real value of the land was worth upwards of $44 to $116 million dollars.
A freelance local investigative reporter, Glen Meek, has been researching the Sheahan case since the government seized the land, and he is in the process of making a documentary about the case.
He noted the government’s unwillingness to provide answers and boiled it down to two fundamental issues – individual rights and national security, saying“the government’s position is pretty much, the testing that’s going on there now is incompatible with civilians having private land in that area.”
This obviously stinks here — and it’s undeniable that the government is persistent at hiding their secrets at the cheapest price possible.