A gold-mining company has agreed to pay a settlement in excess of $4,000 for damaging tundra on Bureau of Land Management land about eight miles northeast of Silverton.
In July, Colorado Goldfields, a Denver-based mining company, sunk a bulldozer into the alpine tundra and drove four-wheel drive vehicles around it, severely rutting the tundra for about 200 feet, said Matt Janowiak, acting Columbine field manager and district ranger.
The mining company was accessing a patented claim to collect core samples during the exploration phase of a gold-mining operation.
At the time, Goldfields had not applied for a right of way across federal lands to access its claim, and driving off-road on federal lands in the area is illegal, said a news release issued by the BLM.
The BLM issued a cease-and-desist order immediately upon confirming the trespass and began negotiating with Goldfields to resolve the situation.
Janowiak said the mining company acknowledged its mistake and began repairing the damaged tundra almost immediately. It is difficult to know whether it was an intentional or unintentional mistake because of the checkerboard-like boundary lines north of Silverton, he said.
"In this particular case, it's really hard to say," he said. "I really don't know if it was intentional or not.
"They were pretty cooperative all along once we pointed out they were on BLM land," Janowiak said. "They've already repaired the damage."
The company has placed a sign on its private road to keep the public from venturing onto the reclaimed area. It has also applied for the necessary right of way.
The BLM expects to process the right of way in time for the next phase of exploration this summer in Ross Basin, Janowiak said.