New operator to resume Marble quarry operations
A Colorado-based corporation hopes to be quarrying stone in Marble by mid-July, in time for the tiny Crystal River Valley town’s centennial.
Rex Loesby, of Englewood, founder and president of Sierra Minerals Corp., said Tuesday his company hopes to reopen quarrying operations gradually, starting with a crew of two. The Marble centennial celebration is scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 1.
Loesby, a mining engineer, worked from 1988 to 1991 for the previous operators of the quarry, Colorado Yule Marble, which failed financially and halted operation in January. He said a market exists for the stone, which is some of the highest quality marble in the world, but Loesby wants to start producing slowly in order to keep prices of the stone up and his expenses down.
The stone, which is used for monuments and bought by sculptors, currently sells for about $30 per cubic foot, Loesby said. “Relative to other stone from around the world, that’s good,” he said.
The marble varies in quality, but some of the stone from the quarry in Marble is the best around. “The golden vein – what it’s really known for – is very high-quality stone,” he said.
Sierra Minerals’ permit with Gunnison County requires the company, when it’s safe to do so, to provide public access to the quarry, which has been a tourist attraction for decades. But a trail to the quarry is not currently open. Fences built for public protection were not maintained by Colorado Yule, Loesby said, so he’s not confident that the quarry is absolutely safe for visitors.
“I think it’s probably not a good bet to go up there this summer,” Loesby said. Gunnison County has cordoned off the trail to the mine and placed a “no trespassing” sign on it.
Marble resident Craig Donaldson, Centennial Committee chairman, said that to the best of his knowledge, the trail is blocked because Colorado Yule Marble did some work near the quarry portal accessed by the trail that makes entry at that point unsafe.
But visitors can see the quarry by joining a guided tour during the centennial celebration. Donaldson said besides the quarry tours, the event will feature horse and wagon rides, games, music, an art fair and the annual Marble Marble Symposium which attracts sculptors from all over the world.
Colorado Yule had a difficult time with finances throughout the 1990s. Loesby said the firm obtained financing from an English bank in 1990. That bank sold its interest in the quarry to an English firm called Pictors Bathstone, run by Englishman Peter Carroll. While Carroll continued to pay the quarry workers, other expenses such as equipment, rail and truck shipping and the lease with OMYA, the Vermont company that owns the quarry, went unpaid.
Loesby said the Secretary of State’s office lists Colorado Yule Marble as dissolved, though it never went through bankruptcy. He said corporation’s debts exceeded $500,000. Loesby said he thinks Carroll may be liable for the debts, but because he is overseas, it will be difficult for American firms to collect.
On learning that Colorado Yule was about to lose its lease with OMYA, Loesby and Sierra Minerals applied for and obtained a lease to operate the quarry.
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