Company Officials Address Future Closure Concerns
What happens when Newmont’s Cripple Creek & Victor (CC&V) Gold Mine venture, one of the biggest projects in Teller County and employers in the area, hits the closure button?
Will Newmont still try to undergo an underground project, in an attempt to ply out the riches that the old-timers missed? Can the reclaimed mining area get converted into a park, or better yet, an ATV recreation hub, and will more post-mining tourist projects get unveiled in the near future? More notably, can the local community survive life after the CC&V mine departs the area? What about the prospects of Newmont’s reported merger with Australian giant Newcrest?
These were just a handful of questions that surfaced during a community meeting last week in Victor as Newmont officials gave an update on a variety of projects, and highlighted the launching of a community investment survey
The mining company announced a series of six, all-day open houses in the CC/V area during which they want to hear from the public. These will occur at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center and the Victor/Newmont office in Victor.
“We want to know what is your perception of Newmont and what are your concerns,” said Andrea Connolly, a new representative of CC&V’s external relations team She conceded that one of the big complaints regarding Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine operation is that “we (Newmont company officials) were not available enough.”
Newmont officials hope to help bridge that gap through more community meetings and outreach efforts. Connolly said CC&V plans to take a much more high-profile effort on the community front, and will be communicating more with elected leaders of local governments and nonprofit organizations.
But for the first time since the Cresson operations was started in the early 1990s, CC&V officials actively mentioned the “C” (closure) word. The gold mine’s current life cycles for its Cresson pit operation is slated to end around 2031, with the reclamation efforts to continue through at least 2042, with the final touches and review efforts not completed until 2055.
This possibility of an eventual closure date has triggered many concerns and a bombardment of rumors, according to CC&V spokesperson Katie Blake, who manages the team’s sustainability and external relations efforts.
However, in an internal review of high priority concerns, Blake listed this at the top of the list. “Closure is a concern,” said Blake, when speaking before community residents last week. She said the goal of the reclamation effort would be to return the area to a “pre-mining use,” with the vast majority of the property consisting of grazing area for cattle and cows.
The actual mining pits would be fenced off, according to Blake.
Sections of CC&V’s property would undergo reclamation on a trail basis to test out their eventual closure plan. At last week’s meeting, she outlined reclamation work being pursued on a 50-acre area. “We want to try these out and see how they are going to work,” said Blake.
While giving the timeline for pending closures, Blake made it clear that CC&V plans to actively pursue continual mining opportunities in the CC/V area. She even cited a future Amendment 14 project, aimed at increasing the footprints of their operation, but not upping the mining boundaries.
“We are always looking for future expansions,” said Blake.
Underground Mining Possibilities?
In an earlier meeting in Cripple Creek, when Newmont officials addressed the city council, Councilman Bruce Brown posed the question of a underground mining exploration bid that was introduced several years ago.
Blake conceded that this exploratory effort just didn’t pan out, as far as generating enough high-grade ore to justify the expenses. But she left the door open for future underground mining plans. “We never say never,” replied Blake. The concept of a future underground mining operation, which has been proposed by the current CC&V owners and previous operators, generated much excitement among long-time residents.
And whatever future steps CC&V takes, Blake and company general manager Lori Smith made it clear that a long process is ahead for Newmont. Much of their activity could be impacted by the price of gold and the operational climate. Mining companies have faced a growing spree of environmental regulations.
Meanwhile, local leaders are actively watching the future plans of Newmont, which currently contributes close to $500,000 a year to organizations in their operation area. Out of these funds, more than $285,000 went to entities in Teller County, Cripple Creek and Victor and Woodland Park in 2022, according to a report released by Newmont.
Residents posed a variety of questions and suggestions for increasing the use of the area, if a closure date looms. Victor resident Jon Zalewski asked about the possible sale of gravel by CC&V, and how much of their plans were impacted by the price of gold. Other ideas were thrown out regarding developing a better scenic road to tour the area, and even converting part of the property to a park.
Blake quipped that she has heard so many plans for the future use of the area, following the departure of Newmont, that she can’t really comment on speculative post-mining ventures.
Also, Smith was asked about a possible merger with the Australian mining giant Newcrest. Former Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen believes this could offer a good opportunity for Newmont. The CC&V Gold Mine manager agreed, but cautioned that a pending deal could take months to resolve and nothing has been agreed to at this point.
For the most part, residents were encouraged to participate in the company’s new community investment survey.
The forthcoming meeting schedule consists of three meetings at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center on March 21, April 18 and May 23 with CC&V officials available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Meetings also will be held at the Victor/Newmont office on April 4, April 25 and May 30 at the same times. For more information, call 719-851-4188.