The Durango area owes much of its history to mining, and with that debt comes all that the industry entails: the boom times as well as the busts; the benefits and the consequences. As mineral extraction has progressed, technology has improved to help reduce the negative impacts mining can have on the environment, but there remain issues and sensitivities about how to balance the two often divergent interests of harvesting a resource and protecting the environment in which it is located. Achieving that balance, to the extent it is possible, requires adherence to rules.
It is troubling, then, that Wildcat Mining Corp., the entity that aims to reopen the Idaho gold mine in La Plata Canyon near Mayday, seems to have attempted to skirt those regulations. The company bought the property in 2006 and received a permit to mine there in 2007 only to have it revoked last year after failing to post the bond required to guarantee the appropriate mitigation and reclamation work would be performed on and around the mine site. Wildcat nevertheless built a road on its property that has been deemed unsafe by the Mined Land Reclamation board. That resulted in a $10,998 fine and a rejection of the company's permit application - an appropriate decision.
What remains, though, is a bit of a quandary for the board and neighbors - all of whom want to see the unsafe road remedied. By rejecting the permit, the board risks Wildcat just disappearing without making good on its obligation to fix the problem road, or any other messes made during its nonpermitted operations. Given the company's history of avoiding or ignoring what is required of it, that worry certainly is not without warrant. In an attempt to prevent that fear from becoming reality, the board agreed to waive $5,000 of the fine, provided Wildcat posts a new bond of $56,233 to fix the road, and submits a new site plan. It is hardly an ideal situation, but it is an improvement over what exists now.
For their part, Wildcat Mining representatives are not behaving impressively during negotiations, expressing frustration about their lack of return on the mine. That argument does not evoke much sympathy, considering Wildcat's failure to follow the clear rules that govern mining in the state and La Plata County. Mayday residents' concerns about the manner in which Wildcat has conducted its affairs regarding the Idaho mine seem far more legitimate, and it is encouraging that the Mined Land Reclamation board recognizes that.
It is a tricky situation, though. Given Wildcat's history, the board has to tread carefully so as to, at least, get the existing mess remedied. What happens after that remains in question, but it seems likely there will be closer scrutiny from neighbors, the state and the county. That is important.
While it may be acceptable to revisit mining in La Plata Canyon, it must be done according to all the regulations that have made the industry less destructive to its surroundings. Wildcat is not off to a good start, but with a more closely monitored process, it may be able to remove the foul taste left among the community thus far.