Wildcat Mining

State makes right call in suspending permit

Wildcat Mining Corp. has not won many fans among regulators and neighbors of its Mayday gold mine site in La Plata Canyon. It is easy to appreciate why. Since 2008, when it cut an illegal road to access an illegally drilled mine portal, the company has done little to remedy the significant problems it has wrought on the site despite many promises otherwise. Quite understandably, the Mined Land Reclamation Board has run out of patience with Wildcat and suspended the company’s permit at the site.

The final straw came after Wildcat failed to meet a Sept. 30 deadline – one it had agreed to in writing – to repair the illegal road. The road has been causing significant sediment problems in the La Plata River, as well as posing a safety hazard for anyone attempting to use the road. Wildcat, owned by the Florida-based Varca Ventures, had committed to addressing the road problem by the end of September. A state inspection on that day found that the work had not yet begun. As the Mined Land Reclamation Division staff told the board in urging the permit be suspended, enough was enough.

“We’ve done nothing but give them chance after chance to do right and fix the road. They’ve done nothing but squandered opportunities,” said Jeff Fugate, a lawyer for the mining division. “The division is done with chances.”

The division is right, and the governor-appointed board agreed – as it should have. Despite the mining company’s complex history of ownership and leadership, with all fingers pointing backward in time, there has been a consistent thread throughout the embarrassing five-year history of Wildcat’s involvement with the Mayday site: The company has failed to do what is right and what it has committed to do, time and again. It has shown no signs that that will change.

Regulators and those who issue permits must consider that history as well as the continued effects of Wildcat’s egregious activities at the site. For five years, the road has negatively affected the community and an important waterway in the region. Then, there is a collapsed mine shaft to address. Following those two formidable repair efforts – which Wildcat has neglected to even begin – the company would have to begin its work anew, this time with proper methods. The state is right to have its doubts, despite assurances from Wildcat that it will, this time, follow through on expectations.

“We’re asking the board the opportunity one more time to bring this mine complex into production,” said George Robinson – the company’s fourth president in five years. “I know it’s been an interesting, difficult road for Wildcat, but we’re committed to move forward.”

This time, though, Wildcat will have to move forward without any assurances from the state that mining will ever be allowed at the site. What will happen for sure, though, is that the existing mess will be remedied – either by Wildcat or the state, should the former once again fail to deliver. It is a guarantee that is way past due.