USFS offers deal to miner | AspenTimes.com

USFS offers deal to miner

The U.S. Forest Service has offered one of Pitkin County’s last miners a plea bargain to settle a dispute that erupted in December.Under terms of the proposal, Robert Congdon would plead guilty to interfering with a law enforcement officer and damaging natural features, according to Aspen District Ranger Bill Westbrook. Charges of illegal off-road vehicle use and destruction of historic resources would be dropped, Westbrook said. He stressed that a federal judge still hasn’t approved the plea bargain.The deal would hinge on Congdon’s reclamation of roads he created for access to the Maree Love Mine on a lower flank of Mount Sopris. He also would have to dismantle a structure he built from an old cabin on the site and newer lumber. “It looks like a large treehouse on stilts,” Westbrook said.Congdon was livid when told this week that Westbrook had discussed terms of the plea bargain during a meeting with the Pitkin County commissioners. He said he had no comment on the proposed deal.The Forest Service and Congdon have a running feud over his ability to work the Maree Love Mine. He rediscovered the abandoned mine in the early 1980s. It probably hadn’t been worked since the 1950s.Congdon holds an unpatented mining claim on 20 acres, giving him the right to the subsurface minerals. The Forest Service owns the surface rights. The fight is over the extent of Congdon’s rights as the mineral holder.He claimed he filed an outline of activities, called a Notice of Intent, in 1986. Westbrook said the document Congdon submitted was inadequate.Although Congdon had been undertaking activity at the mine site for years, the federal agency took action against Congdon only last December. At that time, officials said they were concerned about damage to natural and historic resources.The regional office of the Forest Service will perform an exam to determine what minerals exist in the mine and whether they can be recovered feasibly.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com