Mining Company Plans Exploratory Drilling in Yankee Boy Basin
by Gus Jarvis
Jan 12, 2010 | 3824 views | 7 7 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plan Includes 27 Surface Drilling Sites on Almost 700 Acres of Patented and Unpatented Mining Claims

OURAY – The Mt. Sneffels Mining Co., current operator of the small Ruby Trust Mine, has filed a notice of intent with the State of Colorado and U.S. Forest Service to conduct exploratory drilling on patented and unpatented holdings contained in the Sneffels Creek drainage and the Yankee Boy Basin areas approximately five miles southeast of Ouray and four miles northeast of Telluride, on the south side of Mt. Sneffels.

According to Charles Ponchak, a consulting geologist for the Mt. Sneffels Mining Co., the gold and silver exploration plan includes 27 surface drilling sites on 145 acres of patented holdings and another 550 acres of unpatented holdings. He said the exploratory drilling is to evaluate the Ruby Trust Mine’s mineral vein to see if it is economically feasible to extend the mine’s operation across its holdings.

“It is a good ore body they are mining right now,” Ponchak said in an interview on Tuesday. “We came up with a program to evaluate the vein to see if we can extend that [mining] on the length of the property.”

The plan encompasses approximately 60,000-75,000 feet of diamond drilling at a cost of $5-6 million and should begin this year. The exploration will take three to four years to complete, during the summer season. Since the additional 550 acres of unpatented mining claims are on U.S. Forest Service land, the company has filed a Plan of Operations with the U.S. Forest Service as have also filed the Notice of Intent to conduct exploration with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

The plan was discussed at Monday’s meeting of the Ouray Board of County Commissioners; county staff was directed by the commissioners to investigate what regulatory role the county should or is required to provide.

“I would like to ask staff to make a thorough review of what can and can’t be done and what implications there might be,” Commissioner Keith Meinert said. “This could potentially be a very contentious and interesting issue to a number of people, particularly to the City of Ouray, because it could be a disruption for a period of three to four years of the tourism activity up in Yankee Boy Basin.”

While all three commissioners expressed concern over the details of the exploration plan, the discussion at Monday’s meeting mainly surrounded what steps the county should take first, in reviewing the plan. Both Meinert and Commissioner Heidi Albritton agreed that county staff should analyze what land use issues might come into play, as well as determine what regulatory responsibilities the county has in the matter. Commissioner Lynn Padgett suggested that the commissioners call a meeting with the mining company, USFS and officials from the CDRMS to discuss the plan as well as the permitting process.

“I think we need to make sure we understand more of the details,” Padgett said, “and facilitate a workshop.”

“I am weary of extending our scope past that of the county,” Albritton said, adding the commissioners have heard “some concerns voiced from the mining community that we aren’t supportive of mining. I would be hesitant to reach out without knowing what our jurisdiction is. I would like to have that sense before we reach out to get other parties involved. Let’s focus on what the county’s role is first.”

Ponchak said the mining operation and its potential expanded operation is and will remain small-scale. The mine’s tailings will be stored in a stope – a formerly mined nearby vein that can, Ponchak said, hold all the tailings the operation will ever produce; the mine’s mill has been built to process only 50 tons of ore a day.

“You pretty much won’t even know it’s there,” he said. “The operation will never be that big and is pretty much non-intrusive the way it is designed. Fifty tons a day is not that much.”

If the state and USFS issues the required permits for exploration, drilling should begin as soon as the roads into the area are open and accessible. According to the plan description issued to the county commissioners and made public on Monday, four drill rigs will be employed, running 24/7. All drilling will employ a diamond-core drill, reaching depths of 200 to 2,000 feet. Extracted cores will be stored, evaluated and processed at the Ruby Trust Mine and Mt. Sneffels Mining Co. assay lab in Ouray. Water for the drilling operations, according to the plan, will be taken from the Ruby Trust Mine’s potable water supply. With four drills running, several thousand gallons of water will be used each day. Water will be transported from the mine to the drill sites by water trucks and all the drilling water will be recycled. Water from the drilling will not be allowed to enter the surface water drainage system.

Most of the drill rigs will be manned by a driller and a helper during each eight-hour shift, and the exploration project will employ 35- 40 people, in addition to the 12-15 employees already working at the Ruby Trust Mine.

“There will be some benefit, employment-wise, to the county,” Ponchak said. “I know there are a lot of guys looking for work and I am sure that it will be a top priority to get local people to work.”

The Mt. Company Sneffels Mining, based in Avon Park, Fla., is owned by three partners who purchased the company in 2007 from the Walker Mining Co. The exploration narrative plan and map are available for public viewing at the Ouray County Courthouse in Ouray and the county’s Land Use building at 111 Mall Road in Ridgway.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
dirty gold
January 16, 2010
Gold mining is one of the most destructive mining practices in the world. Cyanide leach mining has left is scars throughout the world including the Prospect area near Alta where decades after the the mine closed there are still acres and acres of land nearly devoid of just about all life. Predatory corporations like Newmont have poisoned people's drinking water from Ghana to Peru. Boycott gold--don't believe the chumps that would have you believe that it's okay to trash Yankee Boy or anywhere in Colorado.
uh, tom..
January 15, 2010
my daddy left me money to live on and my kids are wall street we dont need mining...and we want all of southwestern colorado for our own pleasure..we will stop at nothing to stop this..

signed, havent worked a day in my life.
Tom Fedel
January 14, 2010
First off, the enormous amount of permitted, safe, and effective mines (ie: the Carlin region in northern Nevada) currently using cyanide leaching is easily enough to clear the environmentalist smoke surrounding cyanide leaching. Having worked at an open pit gold mine that employed cyanide leaching I can confidently say that cyanide is one of the most effective and safe ways to extract gold from low grades ores. Cyanide solutions break down rapidly when exposed to oxygen. Also, when used properly in a cyanide leaching circuit these solutions never come into contact with ground water aquifers.

Most importantly however is the fact that the mining and processing methods that would be used on a small, vein-type deposit such as the one being discussed have nothing to do with cyanide. They would likely use nothing more than gravity and water to produce a concentrate which would then be smelted into the final product (at one of a few smelters left in the US). Did I mention that underground mining (meaning almost no surface impact) is the primary method of mining narrow vein deposits? I am NOT saying that there has never been any irresponsible mining. I am saying that today, mining is one of if not the most heavily regulated industries in the US. This fact ensures that the environment and public welfare are held as number one priorities when mining is taking place. The fact is that Ouray was founded on mining; an industry that is impossible to live without. Why not re-kindle such a valuable and stable industry in an area that relies solely on the unstable tourism industry?

jock mitchell
January 13, 2010
if you have never been to costa rica then come on down. the canadians are trashing this place for gold. so far we have been able to slow them down. the nobel for peace president we have has his hand in the proverbial till, but we've been able to slow it down. actually, its at a pretty good stop. they have felled all the almond trees that the endangered parrots eat. this was a last major flyway. we like the birds and fishing for world record snook and tarpon. This area is near the nicaraguan border on the san juan, st. john, river. costa rica is the one country without an army but hungary is the only country that prohibits mining with cyanide. its that which tends to f up the rivers and whatnot. GOD BEFORE GOLD or GOLD BEFORE GOD. the weather here is less snowy than in your neck of the woods. come on down for some fishing, and that famous whatnot.

January 13, 2010
Let's trash the environment so we can buy some more meth!
No Way...
January 13, 2010
Here at the Old Self Interest Me-First Community Coalition, we oppose the actual use of all natural resources. Instead, what we do is hold focus groups with a diverse bunch and decide whether we should allow something to go forward. Like Commerce or Jobs or any of that.

You should note that we are not funded by profit on human endeavor; rather we are funded by handouts and like a tenured professor have insulated ourselves from the free market and reality.

No jobs in Telluride!
January 13, 2010
Whoopeee! Bring it back baby, bring back the mining! It should have never left the area. We are mining people and the area is a mining area!