Commissioners say yes to new mining amendment
~ byTrevor Phipps ~
Projects proposed by the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine have led to many citizens voicing their concerns at recent meetings hosted by the Cripple Creek City Council and the Teller County Commissioners.
Citizens of Cripple Creek got concerned when they received a letter in their mailbox, saying that their houses were close to where blasting operations will soon be held. The mining company, according to officials, may have erred with the timing of the letter sent out in relation to the public meetings held to thoroughly explain the situation.
More than five years ago, the CC&V mine was granted the right to expand their operations to a North Cresson area along a hillside overlooking the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.
The expansion added a relatively small area to the mine’s workable area that still sits inside the permit boundary CC&V was granted decades ago. The mine’s workable area was set to be smaller than their total permit boundary. Just recently the mine has started this project, which was previously approved.
But as a precaution, the mine is required to warn any citizens that live within a 2,000-foot radius of their blasting operations that possible, (but not likely) hazards exist. According to Brad Poulson, External Relations Representative at the Newmont Cripple Creek &Victor Gold Mining Company, impacts from the current expansion should not be felt by residents of Cripple Creek. CC&V warns citizens that small vibrations may be felt and that there is a small possibility that small chunks of rock could fly up and be a risk.
Poulson explained that the chances of any rock flying out of their strategically drilled, 40-feet deep blasting holes, were extremely rare but possible. The mine sent out the letters to alert local residents of this situation, and to offer a third party consultation service to assess the resident’s property and see if any property damage could occur.
The mine told the public that under a worst case scenario, they would warn certain residents and recommend evacuation for a 20-minute period so that nobody was at risk of getting hit by flying rock while blasting was taking place. The mining company also stressed at the public meetings that CC&V would pay to repair any property damage that may possibly take place.
New Mining Amendment Pursuit
During last week’s Teller County Commissioners’ meeting, the board addressed another other issue relating to the CC&V mining operations: the company’s newest amendment pursuit.
According to Teller County Planner, Dan Williams, CC&V submitted their Amendment 11 to the Colorado Department of Reclamation and Mining Safety (DRMS) in December of 2015. DRMS approved the mine’s amendment proposal on February 8, 2017.
The mine’s Amendment 11 was initially started when the mine was owned by Anglo Gold Ashanti. At that time, the mining company had planned to expand mining into an area called the Chicago Tunnel and to once again use underground mining operations. Since then, the new owners of the mine have decided that underground mining operations are not financially feasible at this point.
However, the Newmont CC&V Mining Company followed through with their previous owners’ Amendment 11 proposal in order to keep the possibility of underground mining a possibility in the future. They also received a slight alteration of the mining permit area to allow the venture to move forward.
Their newest amendment also included a few other changes to CC&V’s mining operations. The amendment asked the county commissioners to allow them to expand the height of a pile of non-gold bearing dirt called the East Cresson Overburden Storage Area (ECOSA), located northeast of Victor, by 395 feet. Amendment 11 also asked for expanding their high-grade mill and installing a new truck scale.
CC&V’s proposed amendment also allows for postponed and modified backfilling operations of current mining areas. The mining company desires to keep blasting the Wild Horse Extension and Main Cresson mine areas to search for more gold instead of backfilling the area. According to a project summary submitted to the commissioners, other modifications of the mine areas were put in the amendment in order to “provide increased operational flexibility.”
For example, the Amendment 11 plan would allow CC&V to ship a limited quantity of gold ore concentrate to a location in Nevada to be refined. The mining company has more efficient operations in Nevada to refine the small portion of gold that is only found in very small particles of dirt material. The process of shipping the one percent of their gold ore to Nevada is expected to increase the traffic on Highways 24 and 67 from their current average of sixty trucks per day to an average of eighty trucks per day.
The mine had the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) do a study to determine what effects, if any, the increase of 20 trucks per day would do to local highway traffic. CDOT determined that the increase of just less than one truck per hour would not cause a significant change on the highways’ current wear and tear.
After the recommendation from the Teller County Planning Commission and the presentations from mine officials, the commissioners were asked to vote on the approval of CC&V’s Amendment 11. The commissioners asked a few questions to the mine representatives in order to clarify some details outlined by the amendment. After some discussion with CC&V representatives, including the mine’s general manager, the commissioners voted to approve the mining company’s Amendment 11 unanimously.