DENVER – The state mining board suspended the permit for Wildcat Mining Corp. on Wednesday, five years after the company first ran afoul of the state by cutting an illegal road in La Plata Canyon and drilling a gold mine portal without permission.
Regulators at the Mined Land Reclamation Division said they had lost patience with the company after another construction season passed with no repair work on a steep road down the canyon banks that Wildcat’s original owner, Mike Clements, cut illegally in 2008.
The company agreed in writing this summer to finish repairing the road near the hamlet of Mayday by Sept. 30. But an inspection that day found that work had not even started.
“We’ve done nothing but give them chance after chance to do right and fix the road. They’ve done nothing but squandered opportunities,” said Jeff Fugate, a lawyer for the mining division. “The division is done with chances.”
But it was up to the governor-appointed Mined Land Reclamation Board to decide to withdraw the permit, and the six members agonized for about three hours before voting to “suspend” the permit until a hearing two months from now.
Legally, there’s no real difference between suspending the permit and revoking it, Fugate said.
Wildcat can try to get the permit reinstated at a hearing early next year, when the board will decide whether to revoke the company’s bond and revoke the permit for good.
George Robinson, who took over as president of the company this month, asked for the permit to be kept in place to give new managers time to correct the company’s problems.
“We’re asking the board the opportunity one more time to bring this mine complex into production,” Robinson said. “I know it’s been an interesting, difficult road for Wildcat, but we’re committed to move forward.”
Board members initially decided to let the company keep its permit, but they decided suspension was the only way they can make sure the road is repaired by fall 2014 – either by Wildcat or the state.
Tom Brubaker said the case is the worst he has seen in his 2½ years on the mining board.
“It’s a major, huge step to revoke a permit, and not one to be taken lightly. But if I’ve ever seen one, this is it,” Brubaker said.
If the state assumes control of the project, it will erase the road instead of trying to stabilize and repair it.
Wildcat has gone through a number of corporate restructurings, including a shareholder vote within the last month that put Robinson in charge. He is the fourth president of the firm in its five years of dealings with the mining division, Fugate told the board.
Wildcat now is owned by Varca Ventures, a Florida company.