Mining District edges closer to Cripple Creek
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Despite some concerns expressed by the city of Cripple Creek, the Newmont Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine (CC&V) has scaled a key local regulatory hurdle and has set the stage for a new amendment pursuit.
By a unanimous vote and with no objections, the Teller Commissioners last week approved a new map change that expands the Cripple Creek overlay mining district by 86 acres, allowing the Chicago Tunnel area and Proper Audit Mine to become part of the active mining permit area. This could pave the way for a future major underground mining operation on the edge of Cripple Creek.
Following a lengthy discussion, the commissioners sided with the county planning commission in maintaining that the proposal gives a further boost to the operations of CC&V, owned by Newmont North America, and ultimately the local economy and community. “It is already permitted,” argued Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder, in explaining that CC&V already owns the property in question. “It gives their business more flexibility.”
“This is a business,” added Commission Chairman Dave Paul. In addition, he cited a bevy of extremely strict state regulations that CC&V must adhere to with this change.
“This makes their job easier, and it makes my job easier,” commented Teller County Planner Dan Williams, who cited no major changes whatsoever with the CC&V map change and request for an expansion of the Cripple Creek mining overlay district. “It will better serve the public good. It will streamline the process,” said Williams.
Officials from Newmont, meanwhile, cited the economic bonanza the Cresson operation has created with more than 600 employees and an annual community investment fund of $700,000.
Awfully close to Cripple Creek
However, not everyone attending last week’s hearing in Cripple Creek was ready to join the CC&V pep rally and mining district expansion celebration.
Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray DuBois said that city officials and leaders have questioned a 27-acre hillside, just outside town, that would become part of the mining permit area under the new changes. Moreover, DuBois, who previously served as general manager of CC&V under different owners, noted that few major mining operations in the country are located this close to a city.
That said, he stated that the city of Cripple Creek officially supports the request, but publicly wanted to let the commissioners know that local leaders have some concerns. And if mining does occur in this one new area, extremely close to the southeastern town limits, then possibly a use agreement should occur between the mine and the city, noted DuBois. “The city of Cripple Creek withdraws any formal or implied objections to the CCMOD (Cripple Creek Mine Overlay District Map) change application submitted by the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company. Please note that the city is not conditionally withdrawing its concerns based on performance…but rather, the city places its trust in CC&V to act in good faith,” stated DuBois, in a letter submitted to the county in mid-May.
At last week’s hearing, the city administrator reiterated this stand in more direct terms. “The city supports the (map) change. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any concerns,” said DuBois. “You don’t live with it (an active mining operation) every day like we do.”
DuBois cited the fact that as city administrator he must protect the interests of residents and tourists who come to Cripple Creek and live here. According to DuBois, the city is actively trying to promote more tourist and recreation-related activities. Plus, he said that while the district is a historic mining town, the city was well-established before the arrival of modern mining development, capped by the cyanide leaching process, in the 1980s.
But DuBois stressed that the city and Newmont’s CC&V have a good partnership. He also dispelled any rumors that some type of coup has developed, with the city either heavily supporting or opposing the mine. “There is no agenda,” blasted DuBois, at last week’s meeting.
In early 2017, the city and the mine clashed slightly over the best way to protect the Poverty Gulch historic recreation area, regarded as the birthplace of the1890s gold rush. The bulk of this section was taken out of the permit area, following concerns voiced by city officials, along with a stern letter issued by Mayor Bruce Brown. This played a role in CC&V getting state approval for its new plans, including a new future Amendment 11.
County and city not on the same page
However, during the recent map change approval process, a slight regulatory-type disagreement occurred between Teller County and the city of Cripple Creek. More specifically, Teller officials refused to document Cripple Creek’s main concerns in their final staff recommendations because they didn’t attend any of the meetings held between the city and CC&V. At last week’s hearing, Williams stated that it would have been inappropriate for county staff members to participate in these meetings due to the perception of “collusion.”
The county’s staff report outlined a glowing recommendation of support, and didn’t really address the concerns expressed by DuBois. In fact, Williams downplayed the impacts, noting the proposed expansion only represents a “modest” 1.4 percent increase in the total acreage of the mining district.
In any case, DuBois’ comments last week got the attention of the commissioners partially due to his former role as CC&V’s general manager.
Commissioner Norm Steen queried the city administrator on his specific concerns in the proposed mining area. DuBois replied that a hillside, now placed in the proposed mining permit area, directly overlooked the city. DuBois cited possible concerns over noise and glare, along with view shed and environmental impacts. “It is right above us,” said the city administrator. “We want to protect the public from themselves.”
At the same time, he said a good level of trust current exists between the city and the mine. “The city has done quite a bit to help the transition (with the new Newmont owners).”
Plus, DuBois noted that no active plans have been proposed by CC&V for mining along the hillside that is now part of the permit area. For that matter, the company, under Newmont’s reign, has not submitted any plans for the underground mining operation. In a recent open house, Newmont officials stated that these pursuits are still being investigated from a financial standpoint and aren’t part of their current business plan. Under the previous ownership, CC&V had a more ambitious timeline for the underground mining project.
Steen thanked the city administrator for his comments, and noted they have much weight. The commissioners though didn’t hesitate in supporting the county staff’s recommendations.
With the commission’s pro-mining decision, the door is now wide open for CC&V to gain approval for Amendment 11. This amendment, which doesn’t proposed any more mining disturbances, has already been approved by state regulators. This amendment could appear before the commissioners next month.