The new owner of a controversial gold mine complex in La Plata Canyon is pressing ahead with repair work, although the company does not expect to start mining this year.
Wildcat Mining Corp. got into trouble when its founder, James Clements, illegally cut a road and dug a mine portal without getting a mining permit from the state. Clements sold the company to Florida-based Varca Ventures Inc., and the new owners are whittling away at a long to-do list that state mining regulators will require to be finished before the company can start mining.
“This construction season probably will be consumed with data gathering and corrective action,” said Chris Neumann, a lawyer for Wildcat Mining. “There won’t be any underground mining, I think, this season.”
In late June, the state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety approved plans to renovate a bridge over the La Plata River.
It was the third approval for cleanup and repair work the state granted Wildcat this year, said Loretta Pineda, director of the Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety, in an email.
The other two approvals allowed the company to start repairing the illegal mine portal, which had collapsed, and to redo the unpermitted road, which cuts steeply down from County Road 124 at the hamlet of Mayday to the bridge over the La Plata River.
Road construction has not yet started, because even though Wildcat has secured state approval, it still needs the go-ahead from La Plata County, and county rules do not contemplate a road so steep.
“That road, because of topography, could not meet county standards,” said Victoria Schmitt, a county planning engineer.
So Wildcat is applying for a variance to county rules. Once the application is complete, Schmitt expects the variance board to take about 60 days to act on the application.
After that, Wildcat will need to ask for a more comprehensive permit – dealing with the road, noise, water and sanitation – from the county Planning Commission and the county commissioners. That process could take six months, Schmitt said.
A drilling rig was operating at the mine earlier this season, which generated a complaint from neighbors. The rig was there to drill a water well to collect scientific samples, not as part of a mining operation, Neumann said.
Varca Ventures secured a $600,000 loan in June to pay for operating costs, according to the company’s most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.