OURAY – Star Mine Operations reached a major milestone in its efforts to revive the Revenue-Virginius Mine last month when the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety approved with conditions a mine permit application for the operation.
Star Mine acquired the property through a lease purchase in late 2011, and has been working since then to stabilize the historic silver mine and ready it for production. Up until this point, the mine has been operating under an exploration permit.
Issuance of the pending production permit means that once stabilization work is complete and an underground mill is constructed, the mine has the green light from DRMS to shift into production phase.
Currently, 76 full-time workers are employed at the mine, where construction and rehabilitation work is being done both above and below ground. An above-the-ground crew of construction workers puts in 12 hours per day building surface structures, and underground workers are laboring around the clock, in three shifts, to stabilize tunnels and build dry room facilities. Thus far, they have made their way 7,600 feet into the 125-year-old underground workings, said Star Mine project manager Rory Williams.
Almost all of the workers come from communities in the immediate area, including Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway and Montrose, Williams said. They range in age from 18 to 69. Those who don’t live right in Ouray are either making daily commutes or living in RVs in local campgrounds.
DRMS requires Star Mine Operations to provide both financial and performance warranties before it will issue the pending production permit.
The agency’s approval outlines four conditions and stipulations which will form an integral part of the permit. These conditions have to do with water quality monitoring and quarterly tailings, waste and ore rock analysis.
Star Mine Operations LLC is a subsidiary of the Denver-based private mining company Silver Star Resources. The company has a lease purchase agreement on 500-600 acres of patented and unpatented mining claims associated with the mine, which is located near Yankee Boy Basin 6.9 miles south of Ouray.
In the fall of 2011, Star Mine Operations filed a Notice of Intent to conduct prospecting operations for hard rock/metal mining with DRMS, and was granted an exploration permit. The permit allowed for core drilling exploration and the removal of 4,300 tons of waste rock from the main Revenue Mine adit.
With the mining permit now in place, Williams expects that production mining could begin as soon as this summer. Ultimately, Williams said, the mine could produce about 250 tons of silver-rich ore per day, employing a large number of local residents year-round over perhaps a decade of operation.
Water sampling plays a key role in acquiring a production permit. Under the Clean Water Act, mine operators must be able to prove that they will not adversely affect water quality in the area. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is the state agency that regulates water quality and issues water permits.
Star Mine Operations has not yet acquired the necessary water permits from the CDPHE, but Williams said he is optimistic that he will be successful in this realm, as well.
All projected mining activity at the Revenue-Virginius will take place on patented claims (which are private lands); the operation is buffered by unpatented claims on United States Forest Service property, but no surface activity will take place on these public lands. Thus, the operation does not require a USFS permit to move forward.
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