CC&V Expansion Plans Receive Warm Response by County Leaders Operation May Hit 600 Employees – Rick Langenberg

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The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V) is continuing to receive positive reviews for their forthcoming expansion efforts, including a new proposed permit application for the first major underground operation in the district in decades.

Last week, the Teller County Commissioners signaled a thumbs-up for CC&V, which faces one of its most active years in the last decade. More notably, the county leaders expressed elation over reports that the CC&V work force may nearly hit the 600-employee level and reach an annual payroll of $23.9 million.

And as expected, the commissioners appeared interested in the company’s new pursuits to embark on a major underground operation near Cripple Creek and the Mollie Kathleen Mine. This much touted venture, which has commanded much interest in the region, could involve exploratory drilling as early as this year. The actual underground mine wouldn’t get started until another two or three years, but much of the preliminary planning work is slated for 2016.

Next month, Community Affairs Manager Jane Mannon stated that the company plans to submit its Amendment 11 application that will set the stage for the underground operation to occur. This permit deals with needed changes to its boundary areas, mining methods and alterations of its reclamation plan.

According to Mannon, these plans will be presented before both the Teller County Planning Commission and the Teller County Commissioners. CC&V has already submitted them before the state.

Based on public comments at forums, CC&V shouldn’t run into much public opposition, as most civic leaders yearn for the old days of underground mining. But the project will require a lot more technical steps, such as establishing a new roadway network to transport ore from the underground mine’s mouth to the high-grade processing facility. Already, CC&V has done preliminary work to widen the Chicago Tunnel to prepare for exploratory work.

As for other immediate plans, CC&V will soon begin its North Cresson project near Poverty Gulch, located along a hillside directly across from the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. Tree removal will get started this spring or summer, with the actual mining commencing in the fall.
This project will occur for a much longer period than what the original plans called for. Initially, CC&V had anticipated completing this nearly 200-acre venture by the end of 2018. Current plans call for the North Cresson project to occur from 2016 until 2024.

“It is very dynamic and fluid plan,” said Mannon, in explaining the longer mining period. During an earlier community presentation, she indicated that there is more opportunity for surface mining in sections east of Cripple Creek.

Initially, this project raised the ire of Cripple Creek leaders. But after CC&V presented a more suitable reclamation plan, capped by more tree planting and vegetation work, this once stern opposition has waned. Plus, CC&V has supported Cripple Creek by opening up a local visitor center and helped the community in it its aspirations for a recreation center.

Still, some questions remain. Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray DuBois, who previously served as the general manager for CC&V, stated last week that officials aren’t that concerned about the North Cresson project, but wants to review the Amendment 11 application in more detail.
The extended mining effort near Cripple could open the door too for more displays and interactive exhibits at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. This center will provide a rare look into a major modern-day mining operation.

American Eagles Update

On the downside, one of the more revered local tourist hubs, the American Eagles Overlook, located just outside Victor, will close down in April or May, according to Mannon. However, she told the commissioners that CC&V is dedicated to securing another overlook site, near Victor, this year. The likely candidates include the Ajax, Independence and Little Grouse mine areas, according to a fact sheet compiled by CC&V.

The company, which is now owned by the Greenwood Village-based Newmont Mining Corporation, also will pursue efforts to relocate the former American Eagles artifacts and relics at a later date. Mannon doesn’t believe CC&V will be able to relocate these facilities by the end of this year. Instead, she cited opening a new overlook to replace American Eagles as its main initial goal for 2016.

The decision to shut down American Eagles isn’t that surprising, and occurred following many open houses.

“We have received a lot of comments about the American Eagles Overlook,” admitted Mannon. “But most people understand our safety concerns.”

Access to the tourist location occurs off an active haul road, and this has created security problems, according to company officials. And in reality, the American Eagles attraction is now located adjacent to an extremely active mining area.

Mannon stated that many public forums will occur this year to advise citizens of its permit process and to outline more details for Amendment 11 and for the new overlook area.

And Mannon stated that CC&V will continue doing regular mining tours, which kick off around Memorial Day. In the recent Best Of readers’ survey, sponsored by The Mountain Jackpot, CC&V was rated as the best local attraction in Teller County.

For the most part, the commissioners raved about CC&V’s continued expansion activity and their community contributions. Although not taking any formal action, the commissioners gave their informal blessing to CC&V’s expansion operations and wanted to see the company move forward in meeting their goals. Commission Vice-Chair Marc Dettenrieder asked why the 2015 production levels featured a slight decline from previous years. Based on its year-end report, CC&V mined 195,000 ounces of gold and 110,000 ounces of silver in 2015. That didn’t reach the production mark of previous years.

Mannon confirmed that a slight dip did occur, but attributed this to its infrastructure projects, including the work on a high-grade processing facility.

The commissioners didn’t raise any concerns about the closure and relocation of American Eagles.

CC&V will make another presentation before the Woodland Park City Council this Thursday.