Years past their heyday, the mountains of La Plata Canyon will be reexamined for their mining potential.
Canadian-based Metallic Minerals Corp. has entered an agreement with two private vendors to explore more than 8,000 acres of a mining claim in La Plata Canyon, west of Durango, for potential reserves of gold, silver and copper.
“We’re not miners, and we’re not in the business of mining,” said Metallic Minerals President Greg Johnson. “But we are in the business of exploring for high-value mineral deposits.”
La Plata Canyon was mined from the late 1800s into the 1940s. But in recent decades, the mining sites have sat idle.
But Johnson believes new methods might uncover mineral deposits.
“We’ve learned a lot in the exploration and mining industry since the 1940s,” he said.
This fall, the Metallic Mineral’s geologists, which include former Fort Lewis College graduates, will take to the field to complete initial surveys. The company is calling the project the “La Plata property,” but Johnson said it includes former historic prospects called Allard and Copper Hill.
Metallic Minerals is bringing advanced technologies to scan the surface and rock characteristics of the mountains, including magnetic field measurements, remote sensing and satellite imagery.
“It’s about understanding what might be there,” Johnson said. “We’ve found that sometimes the best place to look for modern deposits is where they were found in the past.”
Johnson emphasized that the studies are in an exploratory phase. If worthy reserves are found in La Plata Canyon, it would take years of studies and permitting before mining could begin.
According to terms of the agreement between Metallic Minerals and the private vendors, the company has four years to explore and decide whether to purchase the property.
If exploration is successful, the company would likely look for a partner that has the expertise to build a modern mining operation that meets environmental standards.
“With such a tremendous history of prospecting and mining, this is a great place for us to look at and understand from a modern point of view,” he said. “From our perspective, we’re excited to look at a region that has not been studied in over 50 years.”
Metallic Minerals declined to disclose the identities of the private property owners. Requests for comment from the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety were not returned.
Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County, did not have information about the mine.
The only other mine with activity in La Plata Canyon is the Mayday-Idaho Complex, which has had a long and troubled history with state regulators since 2008.
In February 2017, a new company took over operations, Sunrise Mining, which is led by Sara Glinatsis, who is based in Arvada, and her father, Jack Nielsen, a farmer in North Platte, Nebraska, who has been involved in the mining operation since 2014.
Since Sunrise Mining took over the Mayday-Idaho site, the company has been in good standing with the state, Lucas West, an environmental protection specialist with DRMS, said in a previous interview.
In June, Sunrise Mining put the Mayday-Idaho Complex on hold while it decided what to do with the long inactive site.
Glinatsis said last week she was not aware of Metallic Metal’s exploration efforts, and it has nothing to do with the Mayday-Idaho Complex.