Colorado Goldfields Inc. is moving forward with its plan to revive mining and milling activities in the town of Silverton.
The company bought the Pride of the West mill in 2007 and is expected to get the final permits to restart the mill before this winter. Already the property has earned a Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety recommendation of approval for most of the mill operations. That paves the way for the mill to reopen and process gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper — all metals with high market prices.
If the mill reopens, it would employ 20 to 25 people and would spark a reopening of mines that could create many more jobs. There are more than 1,000 old mines within a 80-km (50-mile) radius of the mill, several of which have been permitted for mining but have no place to process ore, the Denver Post reported.
“This is a vital prospect for us to get mining going again in San Juan County,” said San Juan County Commissioner Ernie Kuhlman.
The Board of Commissioners has endorsed the mill reopening as a way to once again make mining a viable industry in a remote, high-mountain town that was built on mining and has struggled to find new job-creating industries.
Several entities have objected to the mill plan, including a neighboring property owner and a Telluride-based mining-watchdog group. The concerns include impacts on neighboring properties, the mill’s impoundment location above the Animas River and issues related to the use of a new method called “dry stack” impoundment.
The dry-stack method would remove most of the moisture from the tailings and then compact them in a containment area. The water removed from the tailings would be held inside the mill and reused in the milling process.
Steve Fearn, a Silverton mining engineer who is working with Colorado Goldfields on the project, said dry-stacking the tailings removes the potential for leaks that have occasionally occurred at other mills.
Fearn, who has worked in Silverton for 35 years, said the plan to reopen the Pride of the West has much more solid potential to create a new mining industry for Silverton than a brief reopening of the mill in 2004. That reopening, funded by a small Silverton-based company, failed because of a lack of capital.
Fearn said he expects the mill to begin hiring workers in early September once the last permit is approved. He said initial refurbishing will take place outside the mill, but workers will be able to stay busy inside the mill throughout the winter, reported the Denver Post.
Fearn said he expects the mill to be in production early next summer.