A mining company is set to begin prospecting with exploratory drilling this fall in La Plata Canyon in the hopes of finding enough copper and other valuable metals to warrant a full-on operation.
Last year, it came to light that a Canadian-based company called Metallic Minerals Corp. had 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.
Though mining in La Plata Canyon puttered out sometime in the 1940s, Metallic Minerals President Greg Johnson said new methods of prospecting and mining might uncover worthy mineral deposits.
“We’ve learned a lot in the exploration and mining industry since the 1940s,” he said previously.
Johnson said he was not available for comment Thursday.
In August, Metallic Minerals submitted a request to Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to begin exploratory drilling on a private mining claim near Bedrock Creek, the drainage to the west of La Plata City campground.
According to state records, no new surface disturbances are expected, as the drilling will occur on an existing waste rock pile with no vegetation. Only one drill rig will be on site, as well as a few additional pieces of equipment.
No reclamation will be necessary beyond plugging the drill holes once complete, records show.
Russ Means, an environmental specialist with DRMS, said because Metallic Minerals’ proposed project is relatively low-impact, the company’s application to drill will likely be approved in the coming weeks.
“The footprint is two drill holes, side by side,” he said. “It’s a very narrow disturbance area.”
DRMS doesn’t typically inspect or provide oversight with a project this small, but Metallic Minerals was required to post a $5,000 bond, which would be returned if the company successfully reclaims the area after the project.
“We will inspect when it’s completely done before we release the bond,” Means said.
According to Metallic Minerals’ website, the project is being called the “La Plata property,” but Johnson has said previously the site includes the former historic prospects called Allard and Copper Hill.
Metallic Minerals’ website says the “La Plata property hosts a large-scale precious metals rich porphyry system with associated high-grade silver and gold epithermal deposits.”
The property has been privately held since 2002, after the sale by previous owner Freeport-McMoRan, a mining company based in Phoenix formerly known as Phelps-Dodge.
“There has been virtually no modern exploration in over 50 years on either the large-scale porphyry system or the surrounding high-grade epithermal zones, both of which will be a focus for Metallic Minerals,” the website says.
Johnson said previously Metallic Minerals’ geologists include former Fort Lewis College graduates. The company has until 2023 to decide whether to buy the property.
If exploration is successful, Johnson said the company would likely look for a partner that has the expertise to build a modern mining operation that meets environmental standards.
“We’re not miners, and we’re not in the business of mining,” Johnson said. “But we are in the business of exploring for high-value mineral deposits.”
Any efforts to begin mining operations would have to undergo a separate DRMS process.
A public comment period is open until Oct. 2 on Metallic Minerals’ proposal for exploratory drilling, which can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.