Wildcat Mining Corp.’s “last chance” to begin its quest for gold and silver in La Plata Canyon was extended until Oct. 15 as the operators race to avoid having the company’s permit revoked.
In January, the Mined Land Reclamation Board gave Wildcat until July 1 to end an almost decade-long run of violations for the Mayday-Idaho mining complex, about 16 miles northwest of Durango.
However, according to Russ Means, environmental protection specialist for the Colorado Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety, the Mined Land Reclamation Board on June 22 granted Wildcat another extension to install a culvert on the site.
Means said the holdup is associated with Wildcat obtaining a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is taking longer than expected. He said once the permit is granted, installing the culvert can be done in relatively short time.
“The board extended to Oct. 15 with the notation that it is ‘by no later than the 15th’ and should be completed as quickly as possible,” Means said. “The board did not want to create a situation of forcing a task that was not approved by other jurisdictions.”
Otherwise, Means said, reports submitted by Wildcat indicate work is well underway on other required actions, and the division will visit the site by the end of this week to verify what has been completed.
For Wildcat’s part, president George Robinson said all other demands in the state’s January order have been completed.
Robinson said required water sampling, a final report on a collapsed upper portal and remediation on the Chief portal, also collapsed, have been finished.
The only thing standing in Wildcat’s way to compliance with the state, he said, is the waiting game with the EPA’s permitting process.
“Things are on schedule based on activity in the field,” Robinson said. “All equipment and supplies are on site. We’re just waiting for approval.”
Robinson said his earlier prediction that Wildcat Mining would begin operations in October has to be pushed back because of the delay. Now, he’s eyeing a start date early next year.
“With all the permitting, it’s difficult to get a time line established,” he said.
Robinson said Wildcat has begun preliminary discussions with the La Plata County Planning Department.
La Plata County planning engineer Victoria Schmitt said Wildcat was given a feasibility evaluation packet, which provides guidance on agencies to talk to, such as the Division of Water Resources and La Plata County Public Works, to evaluate the feasibility of the project.
“The next step will be for Wildcat to share their findings … and then schedule a meeting to obtain application checklists,” Schmitt said. “Next, they would prepare submittals and submit those materials. This is the point at which the application process will begin and agencies and neighbors notified of the project.”
Since 2008, Wildcat has been involved in an exhaustive back and forth with the state, racking up a litany of violations, which involved cutting a road through the La Plata River, blasting illegal mine portals and building an unauthorized mill.
However, in 2013, Robinson took over operations for the company, promising to end Wildcat’s history of non-compliance. After Wildcat reps pleaded this winter to the board of its investment woes, the state granted what it called the company’s “last chance.”
“The division has asked for revocation a couple times here, and the board elected not to pull the trigger on that,” Means told the Durango Herald in May. “It has a long history, and a lot of it is not pretty. In this case, it’s their last chance.”