Exploratory work near the summit of Independence Pass, near Leadville and Aspen, CO will begin in July, bringing with it opposition from those with environmental concerns and nostalgia from those who recognize the historical significance of mining in the area.
The Aspen Times reported that the exploratory work for the Eureka Saturday Night project was earmarked for approval in June by the San Isabel National Forest in the Leadville Ranger District. The drilling will occur near the North Fork Lake Creek trailhead, a popular mountain hike that leads to a divide overlooking the Fryingpan Lakes. The site is at a major switchback on the valley floor on the Twin Lakes side of Independence Pass, roughly 5 km (3 miles) by road from the summit.
The Aspen-based Independence Pass Foundation represents those watching the project with an aim of protecting the environment. The group is monitoring the project and submitted concerns to the U.S. Forest Service.
“It’s our mission to protect and preserve the ecological integrity of the Independence Pass corridor,” said Karin Teague, the foundation’s executive director. “The corridor, as it is now, is pristine.”
Jim Fine, who was born and raised in Twin Lakes, and owns Eureka Mining LLC. He wants to drill to find out exactly what he possesses on the Eureka and Saturday Night mining claims.
“This mine’s been in my life since I was 8 years old,” said Fine, now 70. He said he recalls panning for gold in the area as a child with is dad, Bob Fine. His father always told him of the great deposits the mining claims held. Fine said it’s time for him to find out definitively one way or another.
“I want to be satisfied in my own mind,” he told The Aspen Times.
If the exploratory work produces promising deposits, Eureka Mining LLC or any other company interested in mining silver and gold would have to go through another environmental review before a mine could operate.
The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety approved the exploratory work in March.
Anyone familiar with the mining history in the Colorado Rockies knows that mine owners weren’t shy about promoting their properties as the richest claims on Earth — even if it was just speculation. Fine is making the Eureka Saturday Night mine out to be lucrative even before the results of the exploratory drilling are known. The mine is listed for sale for $8 million on MineListings.com.
Jim Fine said he hired a company called Harrison Western to perform an in-depth study of the mine shortly after his dad died in 1977.
“Projected total probable and possible gold and silver deposits worth almost $1.2 billion at $1,200 gold and $16 silver based on a Harrison Western report,” the mine listing says.
The property includes 21 acres of surface rights, 620 acres of mineral rights and about 2,800 tons of tailings. A history of the property shows it was worked intermittently from 1880 through the 1960s.
“The last production recorded was in 1961, when approximately 14 ounces of gold were recovered from 27 tons of ore shipping,” the geological report said.
The mine listing terms say Eureka Mining LLC will lease the property, lease it with a purchase option, sell or enter a joint venture.