Cripple Creek and CC&V Reach Truce

Poverty Gulch historic area spared from any future mining activity

~ Rick Langenberg ~

The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company, owned by the Newmont Mining Corporation, has scaled a huge hurdle in its pursuit of their new Amendment 11 application and in their continual expansion efforts.

A lengthy and complex conflict between CC&V and the city of Cripple Creek over mining permit boundaries has been resolved.

As a result, the city has officially retreated from making any objections with state mining regulators, actions that will clear the way for CC&V to gain approval of its newest amendment. This will set the stage for hearings that will probably occur within the next few months before the Teller County Planning Commission and the commissioners.  

More importantly, Cripple Creek has received assurances that will preserve the historic Poverty Gulch area, regarded as the birthplace of the 1890s gold rush, and a key recreation spot. “The mining company has addressed the city’s concerns,” said Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray DuBois, when addressing the council and the public during a workshop last week. “It is a win-win (for the city and for the mining company).”

Under a new agreement reached between the city and CC&V, the mining company has agreed to take the bulk of the Poverty Gulch area out of its permit area. The one small exception is a small slither of Poverty Gulch in the Chicago Tunnel area near Silver Street, which may became the focus of an underground mining operation in the distant future.

“That is a pretty reasonable compromise,” said DuBois, who previously served as general manager of CC&V under the previous South Africa company owners.

He cited the Poverty Gulch historic and recreation area, located just off Hwy. 67, as the city’s prime concern.

“It is one of the most historically-significant areas, if not the most historically significant area, in all of the Cripple Creek Mining District because it is the site where in late 1890/early 1891 Bob Womack announced his gold vein discovery which led to the gold rush in the district, and which formed the basis of the growth and development of Colorado Springs and everything in between,” stated the city in an earlier objection letter.

CC&V officials also lauded the agreement. “We are very pleased to work with the city of Cripple Creek,” said Lisa Becker, external relations manager for CC&V. “It was never our intent to do any active mining in Poverty Gulch. We were never trying to hide anything. We are glad this worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.”

According to Becker, many meetings occurred between city and CC&V officials that resulted in the new agreement.

Some officials also described the recent dispute as a misunderstanding.

A Stern Letter of Objection

Misunderstanding or not, the city filed a detailed, stern seven-page objection letter last spring. And they were prepared to meet with state officials from the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board this month to address their concerns. This could have put a wrench on CC&V’s future plans.

With the new agreement, the city has officially withdrawn as objectors.

In their letter filed in 2016, city leaders made it clear they couldn’t accept CC&V’s latest amendment, primarily due to some of the permit boundary changes and overall confusion with the company’s proposal. “As the CC&V mining operations and its facilities move closer by the year to Cripple Creek, we must be vigilant to ensure that the safety and interests of all stakeholders are considered when proposing amendments in the area. It is with this sentiment that the city (of Cripple Creek) feels it must object to Amendment 11 as currently submitted, and requests that the state ensure the concerns of the city are adequately addressed before approving the mine’s plans,” stated Mayor Bruce Brown, in a detailed letter submitted in 2016.

The city raised concerns regarding such issues as the Cripple Creek mining overlay area, the historic recreation buffer zone, mining disturbance areas and permit boundaries, haulage and access roads, surface water control and utilities.

But in essence, the city’s main objections hinged on concerns about preserving the Poverty Gulch area, considered a boon for tourism and part of the town’s mining folklore.

At last week’s public workshop, DuBois said the city wanted some type of assurance to protect this buffer area. He got a few smiles and thumbs-up from the council when he reported that the bulk of this zone has been completely eliminated from CC&V’s mining permit area  as displayed in the most updated map. “I am pleased to hear about this,” said Councilman Tom Litherland.

A few questions still surround the status of a proposed major underground mining operation in the Chicago Tunnel area, presented in 2015 and expected at that time to get underway within a relatively short several-year time frame. CC&V officials say this project is still on the table, but with new company owners it must undergo more investment scrutiny. The city raised a number of issues pertaining to details of this possible project in their objection letter of 2016.

At least for now, those are a moot point.  

With the new agreement with Cripple Creek, Becker is confident that CC&V can get its new amendment approved by state regulators by early March. She said the company will then hold a number of public meetings, outlining changes proposed with the latest amendment and updates on mining activities.

“We want to keep the public informed,” said the external relations manager.

 The actual new amendment, though, won’t include any additional mining projects, and mostly deals with such technical issues as raising the height of overburden storage areas for CC&V. Once the state gives the okay, this amendment will get reviewed by the Teller County Planning Commission and by the commissioners

Amendment 11 won’t have any impact on CC&V’s new mining operation near Cripple Creek, along a hillside overlooking the Heritage Center. CC&V has started doing tree removal and topsoil work on this project, approved under Amendment 10. This project will start sometime this year. It is part of the company’s mine life extension pursuit, which gives CC&V the right to continue mining the Cresson pit area until 2025.

This is the first major Cresson mining operation that will pose a direct impact on Cripple Creek.