OURAY – Big changes may be afoot at the Camp Bird Mine, the legendary gold mine up Canyon Creek that made Thomas Walsh a very rich man over a century ago and went on to become one of Colorado’s biggest gold producers.
Documents filed in August with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety on behalf of Camp Bird Colorado, Inc. outline a number of proposed activities in support of reestablishing the 14 level portal and drift, or tunnel, of the Camp Bird Mine and renovating its associated historic surface structures.
New owner Caldera Mineral Resources, has issued an invitation to local officials and media representatives to attend an “informal gathering” regarding the Camp Bird Mine on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Ouray Community Center.
“The intent [of Monday’s meeting] is for the new owners of the Camp Bird to have an opportunity to share what is happening with elected officials from the city and county as well as people heading up various organizations,” said Bob Larson of Monadnock Mineral Services, a Ouray-based mining consulting business.
Larson emphasized that Monday’s event is not intended to be a public forum, in spite of the fact that the invitation has been circulating well beyond its intended recipients. “We are just trying to give the elected officials a heads up. We don’t want to exclude anyone but we felt it was important to first give the leaders as much information as possible,” he said.
Larson declined to share any details before the unveiling, and added that sometime this month, there will be more opportunities for the public “to be brought in and show them what’s going on.”
Camp Bird Colorado, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Federal Resources Corporation, has owned the Camp Bird Mine since 1963. According to Bob Oswald, a Durango-based field officer with DRMS, no application to transfer the existing mining permit to another entity has been filed.
“Everything proposed is being done through or on behalf of Camp Bird Colorado,” he said.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s online records show that Caldera Mineral Resources, whose jurisdiction is in Delaware, registered on Aug. 13 with the State of Colorado as a “Foreign Limited Liability Company,” because it is headquartered out of state.
That’s the same day that Reardon Steel, a mining industry consultant based in Cortez, filed a Technical Revision to the Camp Bird Mine’s existing mining permit on behalf of Camp Bird Colorado, Inc. with the Durango DRMS Field Office.
The revision states that CBCI “is in the process of completing a number of permanent improvements to portions of its private property that occur within the boundary of the Camp Bird Mine 112 permit, including renovating the historic homes located adjacent to the access road, renovating the bridge crossing Imogene Creek, installing barriers and gates to regulate foot and vehicular access through CBCI’s property, placing ‘private property’ signage along the perimeter of the property, and repairing utilities that service the historic homes.”
The document says that these improvements are being completed as part of CBCI’s “regular maintenance and upkeep of its property,” and that “these tasks need to be completed regardless of future mining activities.”
Additionally, CBCI has indicated its desire to re-establish access to the Camp Bird Mine through the 14 level of the mine by accomplishing six tasks that fall within the scope of the Technical Revision:
• Summarize the baseline hydrologic setting and implement a water quality monitoring plan;
• Reconstruct the historic sedimentation pond;
• Install discharge conveyance pipe from portal to sedimentation pond;
• Re-grade staging areas and erect an equipment storage building;
• Excavate and stabilize the collapsed 14 level portal and rehabilitate the 14 level drift;
• Revise the reclamation plan and adjust the financial warranty.
The historic underground workings at the 14 level of the Camp Bird Mine date back to 1916. The 14 level is the part of the mine that most people associate with the sprawling Camp Bird complex, as it is where the bustling historic mining camp and mill buildings were once located. From the portal, the drift punches 14,000 feet into the mountainside to intersect the Camp Bird Vein, the source of the mine’s legendary riches. In the 1960s, Federal Resources sunk a shaft from the 14 Level down to the 21 Level to access another ore body, where mining continued into the 1970s.
The 14 level portal was used as the primary access into the mine for over 75 years until the mine closed in 1990. The Technical Revision report indicates that the portal has since collapsed, and that the first priority of the new project will be to re-establish the portal and shore up the drift “to inspect the underground workings as part of evaluating the viability of reopening the mine for production.”
The most recent flurry of activity at the Camp Bird Mine began in July, according to DRMS records, when Camp Bird Colorado, Inc. President Scott Butters granted permission to several parties to enter the Camp Bird property, including local miner Ronald (Bumper) Williams, Jr., Mike Thompson of Reardon Steel, Monadnock Mineral Services, Tilley Exploration and the Watley Group.
Caldera Mineral Resources and The Watley Group share a CEO in the person of one John Bryan. According to Bryan’s public LinkedIn profile, The Watley Group is a Los Angeles, London, and Singapore firm started in the 1980s specializing in Chapter 11 turnaround and reorganization consulting. Bryan is also the CEO of two additional mining concerns, the Copper King Mining Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary, Western Utah Copper Corporation.
If mining is to resume at the Camp Bird, one challenge that its future operators will have to overcome is the lack of a mill. The mine’s most recent functioning mill, dating to the 1960s, was sold to a Canadian mining company in 1995. The company disassembled the mill, trucked it piece by piece down the Camp Bird Road, and shipped it to the Zaamar Goldfield of Mongolia, where it served briefly at a small mine there.
The nearby Revenue-Virginius Mine, another historic mine in the Sneffels mining district that has recently sprung back to life, is currently operating under an exploration permit and hoping to enter into production phase in the near future. Its operator, Star Mine Operations, proposes to build an onsite underground mill to process its ore.
The Pride of the West Mill near Silverton has also recently received a conditional permit from DRMS for reactivation, after a Telluride-based environmental watchdog group, INFORM Colorado (Information network for Responsible Mining) and another objector dropped their complaints against the operation earlier this summer.
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