Officials from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety met with concerned residents and county officials Wednesday at an informal review meeting about a California company's much-resisted permit application to mine in La Plata Canyon.
Wildcat Mining Corp.'s Idaho Mill gold mine has been the subject of controversy since residents of La Plata Canyon sought state help in sanctioning the San Diego-based company for building a mine-access road without a mining permit in 2007. After the company got approval that year to reopen the Idaho mine, the state repealed the permit because Wildcat never posted the required $35,000 bond.
The bond would have functioned as a deposit, going toward cleanup efforts or other costs associated with the mine's potential environmental impact.
Now residents are worried Wildcat is going to skate through the reapplication process without appropriate scrutiny.
About 25 people, including county commissioners Wally White and Kellie Hotter, Planning Engineer Victoria Schmitt, and County Manager Shawn Nau, listened to environmental protection specialists Steve Shuey and Kate Pickford and assistant attorney general Jeff Fugate, general counsel for the mining division, as they outlined the role the division will play in reviewing Wildcat's eligibility to mine in La Plata Canyon and the application review process.
"My hope is that we're not coming off like we don't give a damn," said Fugate, responding to a comment from resident Poppy Harshman that implied state officials were ignoring residents' concerns.
Fugate worked to lay out the complex jurisdictional web of the various agencies and entities involved in the matter and explained what the mining division will look for at the upcoming hearing.
The group fielded questions from residents such as Mary Jo Gage, who lives south of the mine and is concerned that the water that runs through her land will be affected. Her private well is also fed by the La Plata River.
Some wondered whether chemicals would be used in snow removal, and others were afraid they would be locked out of the hearing process.
The next step for residents who submitted letters of objection before the deadline is to submit oral testimony - by telephone if they wish - at the upcoming hearing. Residents who did not submit these letters in time but can make a case that they will be adversely affected by the mine may still participate in the public-comment portion of the formal board hearing.
The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Denver.