The Royal Gorge Preservation Project (RGPP) is a local non-profit corporation that exists to protect community growth by opposing human activity that would prove to be destructive to our environment and to support tourism as the path forward for our city/county. Community input to achieve that goal is critical to our understanding of how we can best serve that cause.
The RGPP has recently received information that some community officials have taken a “wait and see” approach regarding Canadian exploratory/mining company Zephyr Minerals Ltd.’s plans to develop a hard rock mine just south west of Canon City. The RGPP has considered and rejected that approach. We have taken this position after considering the historical impacts of hard rock mining within Colorado and other states; the tumultuous effects on the environment, to include animal habitation as well as plant life and our watershed; the imminent danger of fire, especially when considering that Zephyr’s permitted exploratory area lines up for seven and a half miles with prevailing high winds from the west; the impact to our city and county roads; the fact that only seven to eight percent of extracted gold is used for industrial purposes; and the list goes on.
Zephyr Minerals Ltd. has been in Canon City/Fremont County since about 2012 with a single objective; to mine the wilderness adjacent to Canon City for commercial profit. They did not fly down from Halifax to do us any favors. One can listen to what they have to say then read the disclaimers that they write after advertising their wares.
There are several courses of action that can be taken to address Zephyr’s intentions which, most recently, include securing a permit to mine claims within the eastern-most section of their permitted exploratory area, the area adjacent to Canon City. Possibly the best action is for the citizenry to educate themselves regarding the impact of hard rock mining; make an informed decision regarding their acceptance of having an active mine in their community; then acting on that decision by calling or writing the County Commissioners and advocating that position. The website www.zapzephyr.comis a good place to start. It addresses mining generally and gives numerous examples of fact and opinion as it affects our community. Letters to the Editor can be written. Alerting friends and neighbors to the existence, intent and environmental reality of a mine could be crucial. Supporting the RGPP with helpful ideas and donations is a great way to help.
The RGPP is coordinating with other groups within and without the state and are working to build a broader base from which to work. We have reported Conditional Use Permit non-compliance issues to state and federal agencies when Zephyr has not adhered to exploratory requirements. We are now looking for more effective ways with which to work more directly within our community. Your feedback via the RGPP website (www.royalgorgepreservationproject.org) would be helpful in that regard. You may also request to be put on the RGPP mailing list through that website.
We are walking a long and difficult road and need all the help we can get. It will be appreciated.
ROYAL GORGE PRESERVATION PROJECT
Mine acid drainage polluted stream merges with unpolluted stream downstream. (Earthworks)
A recent op editorial from Canadian-based Zephyr Minerals asserts that the issuance of a mining permit for Dawson Gold Mine is a positive event for Cañon City and Fremont County.
In response, please consider the following possibilities: acid mine drainage, huge increases in heavy-duty ore trucks and other vehicle mine traffic, air pollution, 24-hour noise pollution from mining equipment and vehicles, pollution of ground and surface water, destruction of a mountainside that serves as a scenic backdrop to Cañon City, and the extensive redo of Temple Canyon Road to accommodate heavy 18 wheeler ore trucks as well as tourist
passenger vehicles safely.
In the same article, Zephyr downplays the wildfire danger. Consider that approximately 500 homes in Dawson Ranch, plus additional homes in adjoining areas, are directly downwind from the proposed mining activity. Combine that with frequent ferocious wind speeds, drought conditions, and Red Flag warnings.
As a reminder, here are just some of the more recent wildfires in our immediate vicinity: Natty; YMCA; Royal Gorge; Tallahassee; 5280; Wilson Creek; Quarry; Twin; and Table. On three different occasions, I have watched from my home in Dawson Ranch the flames approaching and evacuation orders just minutes away.
In considering the future of Zephyr mining at the Dawson Gold Mine, it is worthy to recognize the wisdom in the old adage — all that glitters is not gold.
Letter to the Editor – Canon City Daily Record
July 16, 2020
The Dawson Ranch HOA recently surveyed the entire population of Dawson Ranch regarding the residents’ support or opposition to Zephyr Minerals’ exploratory/mining activities. The results were dramatic with 54.7% (268) of the resident-occupied properties responding. 86.2% opposed mining activity while 8.2% (22) were in support. Undecided votes garnered 5.6%. Owners were given the opportunity to provide comments supporting their position. Supportive comments included “Yet to see problem”; Not concerned”; “Good for economy and home values”; “Underground. No mining for six to eight years”. Comments in opposition included “Hold Commissioners accountable (several comments)”; “Would not have bought here if . . .”; “Damage to … endangering environment (several)”; “Stop ASAP”; “Fight this. Pollution, noise, dust, nothing good”; Devalue property and quality of life”; “Get them out”; and others.
Logic might lead one to suspect that the high percentage of negative responses were due to Dawson’s proximity to the exploratory zone. Then again, maybe the Dawson residents simply understood that a mine, proximate or not, was a lousy idea in any case. The strong oppositional numbers are very probably representative of a concerned community, at large.
Zephyr Minerals, Ltd. has an exploratory permit covering approximately 7.5 miles, east to west, southwest of Canon City. Their current area of interest, having shifted from gold exploration, is in the center of this 7.5-mile zone, approximately four plus miles wide. It is bisected by Grape Creek and represents an alleged potential mega-strike of lead, silver, and zinc that they are rolling their exploratory dice on. Drill rigs; helicopter transport of men, equipment and lubricants; plus water pump(s) positioned in Grape Creek to feed their drills, present a clear and present danger. Not withstanding the effects on wildlife and everything that grows, the threat of fire is exponentially increased. This fact needs no elaboration. Short term damage to our community is unacceptable; the long-term damage that a mine would bring is intolerable.
Royal Gorge Preservation Project
May 11, 2020
Letter to the Editor:
Reference your May 6 Daily Record publication “Zephyr Minerals announces ‘important find’ with silver minerals.”
Zephyr Minerals, Ltd. referenced a forty-year old ore sample that shared characteristics with ‘Broken Hill’ type ore found in Australia. The article then went on in mostly incomprehensible geological terms describing the theoretical value of their ‘find’. They failed, however, to provide a disclaimer attesting that their forward looking statement is conjecture based on projections made by the Company with no certain knowledge that the truth of their projections will, in fact, materialize. The Daily Record published Zephyr’s article as a news piece when, in fact, it was purely promotional for their corporate interests. A full disclaimer should have been published with the article since it had the effect of being free advertising for Zephyr.
Mr. Felderhof stated that “We will be utilizing helicopters so there will be no impact . . . and that there will be no sign that we were ever there.” Really? Helicopters will be landing to load and unload personnel and some equipment; there will be walking routes from the helicopters to the drill platforms; and water lines from Grape Creek to the drill sites will have to be set up and maintained.
Does Mr. Felderhof’s statement of “no impact” satisfy the public that our mountainside will not be effected when, in fact, a successful exploratory effort will be just one more step towards the development of a full-blown hard rock mine bisected by Grape Creek? I think not!
Gary Peterson, Board Chairman
Royal Gorge Preservation Project
POSTED: 12/06/2018 03:38:41 PM MST. Daily Record
The involvement of Zephyr Minerals Ltd. in our community appears to be growing ever more grim. Having a working mine in our community's back yard would be ugly and environmentally destructive. Now it appears that we are looking toward contending with an oil and gas lease contiguous with the Dawson Ranch subdivision. The fact that the oil and gas lease was "anonymously" nominated for lease from the BLM, and that the proposed lease is directly adjacent to Zephyr's mining claims, is an apparent coincidence worth of further investigation.
If all of this wasn't enough, Zephyr Minerals Ltd. has now proposed a new mineral lease from the Colorado State Land Board encompassing Grape Creek and adjoining Temple Canyon Park. Interestingly, this proposed lease (640 acres) is located directly to the west of the Zephyr claims and includes the Grape Creek floodplain.
It's time for our county leaders, especially our Fremont County Commissioners, to speak out about this. The prospect of turning back the clock on our community at the expense of progress fueled by tourism is imminent. The odor of barnyard is becoming prevalent.
It is an accepted psychological principle that every man speaks from his (her) own frame of reference. The views/opinions expressed in this 'corner' are mine, but designed to capture the views/opinions of others in our community. Let me be clear regarding my frame of reference. I do not want a gold mine in my back yard! Not just my actual back yard, but the back yard of my community. Mining companies do what they do for their profit . Community residents that want to preserve the beauty of their physical surroundings, while encouraging a local economy comprised of businesses that blend with and support the Arkansas corridor theme, do what they do to support that goal.
The recent meeting with Zephyr Minerals, Ltd. at 523 Main Street in Canon City clearly expressed that sentiment. Verbal opposition from attendees gave a clear indication of marked opposition to Zephyr's mining plan, suggesting that our residents are ready for this reality show to leave town. In that meeting, Mr. Felderhof, Executive Chairman and Director of Zephyr, stated that he had personally invested $500,000.00 in the Zephyr project. A meeting participant stated that the investment that he had in his home, in the now looming shadow of the mine, exceeded that of Mr. Felderhof's. Multiply this times the investments of the myriad of homeowners that have bought or built in Canon City for its small town ambiance and scenic beauty, unaware that a backyard gold mine was in their future.
Further articles will address and express viewpoints believed to be pertinent to the welfare and growth of our community. A back yard gold mine does not fit this bill. Stay tuned!
August 29, 2020
The Royal Gorge Preservation Project applauds Zephyr Minerals’ launching of a Q&A platform for the purpose of responding to questions concerning their purpose and scope. We do not applaud the dissemination of information that is misleading, inaccurate and or outright false. Their quarter page ad in the August 11th issue of the Shopper and the quarter page ad in the August 14th issue of the Daily Record contained such information.
We share Zephyr’s concern about wildfires and agree that all available precautions be taken in their prevention. Currently, there are four major wildfires burning in Colorado, all exceeding 200 acres. They are the Pine Gulch, Grizzly Creek, Williams Fork and Cameron Peak fires, totaling 180,902 acres, none of which are even remotely near containment. Zephyr referenced the recent YMCA fire, the evidence of which until recently has been visible on the mountainside immediately west of Canon City due to fire retardant dropped by aircraft. Zephyr commented that the fire started in a remote area and that the public land had no firefighting resources close by. Their article proceeded to detail their concern and projected active involvement with prevention and preparation in the event of a fire, including the County requirement that a Fire Protection Plan be in file with the fire district.
Examination of Zephyr’s Fire Protection Plan filed on October 28, 2019, is not specific or current for the areas in which they are currently drilling. The plan states that County Road 20X (off County Road 28/Copper Gulch Rd) and County Road 3A provide access to the area of exploration. In fact, County Road 20X (gated) provides no road access to the area of exploration within approximately five miles (‘as the crow flies’) and County 3A’s closest proximity to the exploration area is over four miles, by air, with no road access. The bridge on County Road 3 (Temple Canyon Road) is closer but still close to three miles without road access. Based on Zephyr’s reporting, the fire plan estimating a 15 minute response time and the assessment that “existing public roadways accessing the subject property (are) adequate for fire vehicle access” are clearly incorrect and (probably) applicable to a separate and distinct area of exploration.
Zephyr’s Fire Protection Plan states that a cistern with “Approximately 2000 gallons of water is at the drill site during exploration.” Aerial photographs do not show the existence of such a cistern. Fire suppression capability beyond that of a simple hand-held extinguisher is improbable. The high winds common to this area, low rainfall and dense rugged terrain make fire danger a frightful possibility.
Zephyr stated that “Tourist helicopters fly over public land in Fremont County regularly without incident of starting wildfires.” True, but like other aircraft, they stay in the air. Zephyr’s contract helicopter lands at the drill site(s) numerous times each day. A clear case of ‘apples’ and ‘oranges’.
Finally, Zephyr states that had they been exploring at the time of the YMCA fire, both helicopter and water source would have been available to fight the fire, “...immediately and without hesitation.” Here are some questions for your Q&A platform: Does Zephyr have the authority to divert a helicopter that has been contracted for a specific purpose (exploration) to another purpose which would endanger its existence? Is the contracted lightweight helicopter equipped with the tools needed for fire suppression? How would the “water resource” be utilized by the helicopter? Is the ownership of the contracted helicopter certified by federal and/or state of Colorado authorities to be utilized to assist state/federal authorities with wildfire suppression? We refer you to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website wherein they state “For safety reasons, the BLM does not permit untrained citizens to volunteer in wildland firefighting efforts.”
Please continue to inform the public regarding your goals and aspirations but do your research first and do so with openness and honesty.
ROYAL GORGE PRESERVATION PROJECT
July 24, 2020
Mr. Felderhof’s July 14, 2020 opinion piece in the Canon City Daily Record states that “… signage regarding Zephyr Minerals Ltd. is…largely misleading and at worst, totally false. Most obvious are the signs. There is no Dawson gold mine nor are there submitted permit applications for a mine.” Factually he is right. However, what is the expected result of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on exploration, staking and filing hundreds of mining claims on public land, applying for right’s-of-way and suing local land owners for access if it isn’t to begin a mining process? Newspaper articles and releases back up this observation. Examples (amongst others) include:
“Zephyr Minerals has been conducting exploratory drilling to gauge whether it would be feasible to get permission to start an underground gold mine in the area west of Dawson Ranch…” Canon City Daily Record, January 2, 2020
“Zephyr Minerals, a Canadian-based gold exploration and development company, won’t begin mining for the Dawson Gold Project for at least three years, according to the company’s chief executive officer.” Canon City Daily Record, December 11, 2019.
“The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment…for a proposed road that would allow access to Zephyr Minerals’ proposed gold mine off of Temple Canyon Road…Zephyr Minerals is conducting exploratory drilling to gauge whether it would be feasible to get permission to start an underground gold mine…If access is approved by BLM officials, Zephyr Minerals will initiate the mine permitting process…” Pueblo Chieftain, September 3, 2018.
“An underground gold mine involves putting a ramp underground where development and extraction will take place…” Canon City Daily Record, May 12, 2018.
“He (Will Felderhoff) said Zephyr should be in position to apply for a mining permit application late this year or early next year, which include a public hearing with the Fremont County Board of Commissioners.” Canon City Daily Record, May 12, 2018.
“Zephyr Minerals is proposing a 40-foot-wide and 380-foot-long road on BLM-managed public land to access private property they plan to mine…If approved, Zephyr Minerals will initiate the mine permitting process with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety (DRMS).” Bureau of Land Management Press Release, August 24, 2018.
So, Mr. Felderhof, when should the public begin to be concerned about a gold/hard rock mine? When you/Zephyr Minerals tell us it is okay to gripe? Or would it be acceptable for the public and concerned groups to be proactive in their opposition to a foreign company coming to Colorado and wanting to take publicly owned minerals from public lands, all the while not paying revenue or royalties to the federal government while destroying our local environment?
ROYAL GORGE PRESERVATION PROJECT
Letter to the Editor/Op Ed;
Ashly Smith’s recent opinion piece to the Daily Record was well written and reflective of what it means to be a good steward over our surroundings. She correctly identifies the varied impacts that illegal dumping has on our community and encourages us to be free from “Eww! That’s disgusting” moments.
Trash dumping, while admittedly bad, pales in comparison to the environmental problems associated with any hard rock mine including the potential consequences of Zephyr Minerals’ hard rock mining efforts in our community. Is Ms. Smith bothered by the potential for high volumes of overburden or waste rock with possible toxic substances; the potential for a one million ton tailings storage area located 600 feet above the Arkansas River; waste rock and topsoil storage areas; acid mine drainage; the potential for soil and sediment erosion; airborne emissions resulting from operational activities; the possibility of mercury found in gold ore and associated waste materials being spread to Dawson Ranch, Evelyn Drive and Wolf Park homes with the prevailing winds out of the southwest; noise pollution from vehicle engines, loading and unloading of rock into steel dumpers, blasting, transport, crushing, grinding and stockpiling; vibrations affecting nearby homes as a result of blasting or the many types of equipment used in mining operations; visual impact on the mountain and hills that serve as a scenic backdrop for Canon City; increased wildfire occurrences associated with increased mine and personnel traffic; problems associated with up to twenty ore trucks per day using Temple Canyon Road and, predictably, Mariposa and First Street for transport to a processing facility (potential haulage numbers recorded in a right-of-way application filed by Zephyr with the BLM), seven days a week; light pollution from the high wattage working lamps burning throughout the nighttime hours; impact on nearby homes and property values; and the impact on the recreational biking and hiking trails used by an increasing number of tourists to our area?
A push to eliminate illegal dumping is admirable. The presence of a hard rock mine on the outskirts of Canon City is “Eww! That’s disgusting.” Priorities!
Linda Peterson is a Wisconsin native who moved to Canon City in 2006. She is a proud citizen of Fremont County who enjoys the natural beauty of its surroundings. Linda is currently retired from the public health field and holds Masters Degrees in Social Work and Nursing.
April 22, 2019
The proposed Zephyr Minerals gold mine, brought to you primarily by an outdated and obsolete mining law signed by President U.S. Grant in 1872, is apparently going to be the first mine in recorded history that will have nothing but beneficial impacts on a nearby community and its surrounding environment. In a Canon City Daily Record article by Carie Canterbury, dated September 21, 2018, Will Felderhoff, executive chairman and director for Zephyr Minerals, says he is positive that the nearby mine will actually drive home prices up in the nearby Dawson Ranch subdivision. Rob Brown, executive director for Fremont Economic Development Corporation, states that he is, “…very confident that if managed properly, it will not be any type of blight on our local view plane.”
It’s good to be reassured that there will not be the usual problems that have historically been associated with other mines. Apparently there will be no high volume of overburden or waste rock with possible toxic substances; no acid mine drainage; no potential for soil and sediment erosion; no airborne emissions resulting from operational activities; no possibility of the mercury found in gold ore and associated waste materials being spread to Dawson Ranch, Evelyn Drive and Wolf Park homes, with the prevailing winds out of the southwest; no noise pollution from vehicle engines, loading and unloading of rock into steel dumpers, blasting, transport, crushing, grinding and stockpiling; no vibrations affecting nearby homes as a result of blasting or the many types of equipment used in mining operations; no possible visual impact on the mountain and hills that serve as a scenic back drop for Canon City; no increased wildfire occurrences usually associated with increased mine and personnel traffic; no problems at all associated with twenty ton ore trucks using Temple Canyon Road and Highway 115 at a rate of twenty (according to a right-of-way application filed with the BLM) per day, seven days a week; no light pollution from the high wattage working lamps burning throughout the nighttime hours; no impacts on nearby home and property values; and absolutely no impact on the recreational biking and hiking trails used by an increasing number of tourists to the area.
Mr. Brown, astoundingly, also says that, “…it’s a balancing act between the benefits that they can bring, the potential liabilities associated with those benefits and how we choose to welcome them as a community and then manage them as a community.’ So again, I am reassured by his statement that the “balancing act” and management that will be required relative to this proposed mine is up to the community, not the BLM, Fremont County or the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, none of whose permitting history indicates that they have ever seen a mine permit application or plan of operations that they didn’t like.
Mr. Brown, who appears to be one of Zephyr Minerals’ primary cheerleaders and spokespersons, states that he is somewhat disappointed in how Zephyr has been treated by some members of the community. He didn’t expound on what particular treatment disappointed him, but I assume he is referring to some negative comments regarding the proposed mine. Mr. Brown seems to have forgotten that Canon City and Fremont County are both actually part of the United States and as such, its citizens are still entitled to some freedom of expression. So as citizens of these United States, I encourage those with any concerns over a foreign firm mining on our public lands (and being totally exempt from paying any royalties back to our government) to express those concerns to your Fremont County Commissioners, City Council members, State Senators, State Representative, and your Homeowners Association. Attend any and all public meetings relative to Zephyr and speak your mind. Once the mine is permitted and active, it’s too late to become concerned.
Bio: Paul Tanner worked forty plus years for the USFS and BLM in six different states and held a variety of positions including twenty-two years as a Field Manager. Other positions included Forester, Surface Protection Specialist (oil shale as well as oil and gas), Realty Specialist and Natural Resource Specialist (oil and gas permitting).
Mt. Polley tailings pond breach in British Columbia that emptied into a river with salmon.
By Steve Kaverman
Special to the Daily Record
POSTED: 08/01/2018 02:39:28 PM MDT
The prospect of Zephyr Minerals, or any corporation operating a gold mine, whether underground or on the surface, on the edge of Cañon City, is unimaginable. Residents of the region and anyone downstream of Cañon City on the Arkansas River should be concerned, and alert.
Ask 100 (or 1,000) area residents or visitors: "What makes the Royal Gorge Region and Cañon City such a desirable place live, visit, sightsee and enjoy outdoor recreation?" No one will respond, "Because we love the rock quarry just west of town. That big, rocky scar is just lovely. We'd like to see more operations like it."
That prediction is even more certain than, "Because we're so proud of our heritage as a prison town. Prisons are such a great draw for tourism."
Or, ask anyone, yes anyone ... "Do you think starting a wildfire next to the Dawson Ranch neighborhood, to create a few temporary jobs, and get rid of all those trees would be a good idea?"
Of course, no one (except the quarry operators) would be in favor of expanding to areas not already affected - or planned to be. Of course, no one would like to return to the reputation of being, 'just a prison town'. Of course, no one would be in favor of starting a wildfire because extinguishing it creates jobs, or because wildfires destroy the forest, wreck property values, and ruin the scenic landscapes we all enjoy.
Allowing a gold mine on the edge of town, whether underground or on the surface, would be just as bad for our community as a bigger rock quarry, more prisons, or a landscape forever changed by a wildfire. Yet, there are those in the community who support the idea. The prospect of doing any more damage that has been, and will already be done to the mountainside by exploration presently underway should be prevented.
Thankfully, Cañon City has potential and better options. Factors such as rock quarries and prisons, or events as destructive as wildfires which have detracted from our community, are being overshadowed by a new image, and a more attractive future. They have been eclipsed by new economic development spurred by tourism, and all the facets of outdoor recreation this region offers. We are redefining ourselves, and the future of tourism, tech, and other modern, attractive and sustainable businesses offer a bright future.
As a leading advocate for tourism and leisure travel on a local, regional and state level, I can confidently say that in the Royal Gorge Region, that is what we should be banking on, and striving to develop. Consider what tourism alone does for our region. In 2017, tourism-related spending in Fremont County was $71.0 million dollars, up from $64.8 million in 2016. Earnings increased to $18.1 million from $16.4. Employment rose to 897 from 825. Local tax revenue was up to $2.7 million from $2.3 million, and state tax revenue collected in the county increased to $2.0 million from $1.9.
Tourism is one of the most powerful drivers of Colorado's economy, creating jobs faster than any other industry sector, and the Royal Gorge Region is ideally positioned to capitalize on that potential. More importantly, tourism brings economic benefits without destroying our priceless landscapes and scenic views. It attracts, rather than drives away visitors who spend money in all sorts of businesses, from lodging to restaurants, galleries, gas stations, gift and grocery stores.
So please, stop to consider what is at risk by trading a modern, attractive, sustainable future, for a step backward. Don't make the trade for a gold mine that will destroy the natural beauty our region can bank on, invest in and enjoy for generations to come. A gold mine would be an unfortunate legacy we will regret, and be apologizing for into the next century.
Visit www.zapzephyr.com for more information. Without your concern, voice and action, we risk losing what we have worked so hard for. We risk losing the natural beauty we cherish.
“Zephyr who?” “What gold mine?” “I think I heard something about that!” These are typical responses I have received over that past two or three years when the subject of a local gold mine has been brought up with local citizens. Zephyr Minerals Ltd., Halifax Nova Scotia, has been working in our community for the past five years to establish a mining operation in our back yard, the foot hills of the Wet Mountains, visible above and directly overlooking Canon City.
This is a big deal, friends. The Department of Corrections, an economic mainstay of our community, has been slowly shrinking. Tourism, touting the scenic beauty of the Arkansas corridor, including the numerous venues available for hiking, biking, rafting, etc., is being actively promoted from a variety of sources within our city and county, all with the intent to lead our community into a new era of economic development. This is being done with local people using local resources with the support of city and county residents.
Sitting in direct opposition is the specter of a mining zone nearly three miles wide, east to west, encompassing underground and open pit (documented) mining, 24 hours/day, seven days/week for a period of four to six years (current plan). Visible from our community will be haul trucks on newly constructed mine roads, operating lights and dust, including noise from operating equipment and a processing plant. Ecological damage is certain in the area being mined, in that the mountainside will be scrubbed to make room for the process plant, topsoil stockpile, vehicle parking (including a fire truck), outbuildings, waste rock storage area and a filtered tailings storage area. Please note that the filtered tailings area will be built to accommodate one million tons of tailings/waste, situated approximately 600 feet above the Arkansas River. What could possibly go wrong? Think Cotter! Did I mention anything about home values?
Reclamation, as a rationale designed to mitigate the ugliness of a gold mine, is a Red Herring! It brings to mind the catch phrase about putting lipstick on a pig. Zephyr’s purpose is to mine gold, profitably, in the most efficient way possible. That’s their business. At some point they will be finished, whether by exhausting the recoverable ore, a drop in gold prices, or investment money becomes insufficient, where after they will leave Fremont County and return to Nova Scotia.
Fremont county will never be finished with the mine. The mining scars and tailings will be with us in perpetuity, a constant reminder of our decision not to protect our investment future in tourism and the natural beauty that surrounds us. You can decommission a processing plant and put dirt in holes, but tailings and related issues become the purview of government oversight. Again, what could possibly go wrong. It is interesting to note that the EPA recently announced that it will not issue a regulation to ensure that hard rock (gold) mining companies pay for the costs to clean up their mines when they are finished. “Undue burden” was the rationale.
Jobs! Hmmmmmm! It sounds good but where is the beef? Information technology as well as plant design and operation will apparently be farmed out to English and Canadian companies, respectively. Employment of 75 to 125 people as stated in the recent Daily Record article? The technical report for the Zephyr project identifies 28 jobs for process plant labor and five general/administrative jobs, all of which the majority are technical and/or specific skills needed for gold mining. “Jobs” means nothing without specific context.
The same article quoted production costs of $560.00 per ounce of production (gold). This is fuzzy math. Since 2013 the industry standard has changed to more accurately reflect the true cost of gold mining, referred to as “all-in sustaining costs”, which approximately doubles the stated production cost of running a mine.
Simply stated, there is little to nothing that a backyard gold mine has to offer our community apart from future woes, some real, some waiting to become real. A middle ground does not exist in this case. There either is or there is not a mine overlooking our community. This is a discussion that needs to take place in the light of day, with residents weighing in with our elected County Commissioners and other affected agencies who operate with our tax dollars. The best interest of our community is at stake.
Bio: Gary Peterson is a Michigan State University graduate who served as a Marine Platoon and Company Commander with service in combat in Viet Nam. He subsequently spent an additional thirty years working as a law enforcement officer for the Dept. of Justice, Dept. of the Treasury and Homeland Security. He and his wife Linda retired to Canon City in 2006 to enjoy its ambient beauty.