State board fines Woody Creek man for improper prospecting |

State board fines Woody Creek man for improper prospecting

Jeremy Heiman

Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Board fined Woody Creek resident James Keating for prospecting near Lenado without the proper permit.

Erica Crosby, an environmental protection specialist at the Division of Minerals and Geology, said the MLRB found that Keating violated state law. The violation, she said, was “Failure to first obtain a Notice of Intent to Conduct Prospecting Operations prior to engaging in a new operation.” The board arrived at the finding in a hearing Thursday in Denver.

Crosby said Keating had done nothing that would not be allowed if he had a permit with a basic reclamation plan.

Keating was fined $2,100 for the violation. But the MLRB will waive all but $500 of the fine if Keating completes what Crosby called “corrective actions” prescribed by the board.

In order to get the fine reduced, Crosby said, Keating must get the permit appropriate to the size of his mining operation and post a financial warrantee or bond with the Division of Minerals and Geology. The bond is to guarantee that mining damage to the environment would be cleaned up (reclaimed) even if the mine operator leaves or goes bankrupt.

“It’s sort of a security deposit to make sure the state would have the money to do the reclamation in case the operator isn’t around,” Crosby said.

The finding that Keating was in violation of the law was based on the observation that he had disturbed an area of 3,300 square feet. The largest area that can be disturbed without a prospecting operations permit is 1,600 square feet.

The disturbance, Crosby said, consisted of mining waste, primarily soil and rock, piled on the land. In addition to the amount of area disturbed, Keating’s mine waste encroached on neighboring, privately owned property, also a violation.

Keating said his interpretation of mining law indicates he could have two areas of 1,600 square feet on his claim, and he said his measurements showed the material was within the limit. But he said he accepts the board’s determination.

“I’m satisfied with their verdict,” Keating said. “I think it was fair.” He said he had an adequate chance to speak in his own defense.

He said he applied for a Notice of Intent to Conduct Prospecting after Crosby contacted him about a month ago. He hasn’t yet been told the amount of bond money that the division will require. The MLRB will decide on the bond amount after the application is processed, he said.

Keating said he probably shouldn’t have started digging before contacting the Division of Minerals and Geology.

“It’s just a timing thing,” he said. “I jumped the gun a little bit.”

Allan Grimshaw, a lands and minerals officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said Keating probably needs to file what’s known as a “Mining Plan of Operation” with the Forest Service. He said he needs to visit the mine site to make a final determination, but his opinion is based on photographs he’s seen. The mining plan must indicate where and for how long a miner intends to operate, and how much material he plans to remove.

The Forest Service could require Keating to file an additional bond with his operation plan if department officials think the bond required by the Division of Minerals and Geology is too small.

“We take the plan into account when we estimate the bond amount,” Grimshaw said. “If we think it’s sufficient, then that’s cool.”

Keating’s mining operation came to the division’s attention when an owner of neighboring land sent a written complaint last month. The mine is located on national forest land in the Silver Creek drainage, less than three-fourths of a mile from Lenado.

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