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Article published Jul 17, 2013

State sets deadline to fix La Plata Canyon mine road

Fla. businessman now owns Mayday mine

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – The owners of a La Plata Canyon gold mine with a troubled history have until Sept. 30 to fix a road that the previous owner built illegally.

The state mining board made the order Wednesday for Wildcat Mining to stabilize the road that cuts steeply to the bottom of the canyon and provides access to the Mayday mine.

It took just five minutes for the Mined Land Reclamation Board to enter the order.

Wildcat’s lawyer, Penfield Tate, said the company welcomed it.

“This is a matter that’s been going on for quite some time. We’re pleased we’ve gotten to the point where – both with the division (of mining) and La Plata County – that we can move forward,” Tate said.

The brief, cordial hearing betrayed none of the frustration evident in a report and letter to Wildcat by state mining inspectors.

“The illegal construction of the access road and related environmental impacts and safety concerns has remained unresolved for an unreasonable amount of time,” wrote Anthony Waldron, supervisor of the state mining division’s minerals program, in a May 31 letter to Wildcat.

Wildcat first came to inspectors’ attention in 2008, after neighbors complained that the company’s previous owner, James “Mike” Clements, had illegally cut a steep road down the banks of the La Plata River. Clements also dug a new mine shaft and installed a mill inside the mine – all without a permit. The mine shaft has collapsed.

The mining board did not revoke the company’s permit, but it amended it tightly in an attempt to get the company to clean up its messes before it could begin mining for gold. The road was to be the first priority.

Clements since has sold his company to Varca Ventures, which is run by Roger Tichenor, a businessman in Sarasota, Fla.

Wildcat was waiting on approval from La Plata County for the road, but an April letter from the county told the company it didn’t need further permission to begin reconstruction.

But when mining inspectors visited the site June 5, they saw no work being done on the road.

They also noticed that sand bags that Wildcat had used along its access roads to prevent sediment from washing into the La Plata River were deteriorating, spilling sand and adding to the sediment problem.

The road presents an imminent danger to human safety and the environment, Waldron wrote in his letter to Wildcat.

“Allowing the environmental impacts and safety concerns to remain, unabated, through another construction season is untenable,” he wrote.

Although previous inspections and orders from the mining board highlighted the importance of fixing the road, the board never set a deadline until Wednesday, said Jeff Fugate, attorney for the state mining agency.

“It’s now in Wildcat’s court to pull some bids and get the work done,” Fugate said.

jhanel@durangoherald.com