No problems at alabaster mine |

No problems at alabaster mine

Jeremy Heiman

The first year of operation at Robert Congdon’s White Banks Alabaster Mine in the Avalanche Creek Valley went smoothly.

The mining operation easily passed its first annual review by the Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday, and will be allowed to continue its seasonal operation. No comments from the public were heard, and no objections were raised by county staffers.

The relative silence comes in stark contrast to the years of controversy and the protracted battle between county officials and Congdon that preceded the opening of the mine last year.

Pitkin County issued Congdon a conditional 25-year permit to mine alabaster, a stone similar to marble, last April. The operation of the mine is to be reviewed annually by the county commissioners to ensure compliance with the numerous conditions in the permit.

Tom Dunlop, director of Pitkin County’s Environmental Health Department, inspected the mine site monthly during its operation in 1998. Dunlop’s inspections revealed no violations.

With the mine in full operation, Dunlop said he recorded noise levels at Swiss Village, a small housing subdivision at the intersection of Avalanche Creek Road and Highway 133. Noise levels were within limits, he said.

Noise at the site is primarily created by a generator that powers the cutting devices and lighting in the mine. Congdon has requested to be allowed to run an electrical power line to the mine, which would eliminate the need for the generator, but that has proved complicated and expensive.

Congdon has encountered two unanticipated problems since starting his operation, he said. One is difficulty in retaining miners, because of the cost of housing in the Crystal River Valley and vicinity, he said.

The other problem is quite different. “I’ve become a tourist attraction,” Congdon complained.

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