Land Use Should be Part of Vision for Cañon City 2040
(An Editorial by the RGPP published in the Canon City Daily Record on 6/30/21)

The total land area within Fremont County is just under one million acres. The total acreage of public land within Fremont County is in excess of 54%.  Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service land covers 455,300 of those acres.

According to the state Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety, there are 52 mines currently operating within Fremont County of which 26 are mining sand and gravel or aggregate.  These mines operate numerous haul trucks on our state and local roads. The ever-increasing number of large haul trucks is crowding and destroying the state and county’s roads and highways. In addition to the existing mines, a Canadian company, Zephyr Minerals Ltd., is proposing to open a gold mine in the foothills, which serves as a scenic backdrop south and west of Cañon City.

Picture Cañon City 2040’s plan is comprehensive and reflects extensive planning, but it also needs a comprehensive awareness of the local BLM’s Resource Management Plan, as well as the local USFS’s planning efforts.  It must then consider how those agencies’ planning and current land use will affect the town, to include 2040’s planning as it relates to the future of Cañon City.  The track record of approval that the Fremont County Commissioners, the BLM, the USFS, and DRMS have established is well known and has not always been for the benefit of our citizenry.

Protected public lands are a huge boon for our local economy.  When people come to vacation in Fremont County, they stay in hotels and campgrounds, eat in restaurants, stock their coolers and visit local attractions. If they forget to bring items, they will likely shop in the nearby community.  It is no secret that people are willing to pay a premium to live near majestic scenery surrounded by wildlife.  Studies (“Headwaters Economics” April 2017) have shown that counties thrive economically when they have more protected lands located within.  They also have greater rates of employment and higher per capita income.

Privileged persons may have the use of private land they can use for biking, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, rafting and canoeing, but most Americans turn to protected public lands for outdoor recreation, whether they are looking to climb our peaks, raft the Arkansas River, hike or bike our trails, enjoy scenic vistas or just bring the kids out for a Sunday picnic.

Without protection, these lands will lose their appeal. People do not want to bring their family across the country for a vacation among gravel pits, drilling rigs, hard rock mines, roads crowded and destroyed with 20-ton gravel trucks, clear-cut forests, or fish in water so polluted they cannot fry the day’s catch on a campfire.

The aforestated commentary contains foundational information that is pertinent from an environmental standpoint.  It is relevant to Picture Cañon City 2040 in that the 3,500 plus acres of the permitted exploratory area currently granted to Canadian exploratory/mining company Zephyr Minerals Ltd. poses the operational risk of negating many of the main advantages posed by the 2040 plan.

In the 2040 planning document, concerns were voiced that many in our community perceived it as being a “prison town.”  Would the additional label of being a “mining town” not be similarly antithetical to the goals of Picture Cañon City 2040?  Tourism, transportation and the marketing of our community would be affected in a much more negative way than what results from the presence of the Department of Corrections.  This city/county needs sustainable industry, not short-term commercial projects (3-5 years?) that leave a legacy of waste and degradation.

In many ways, Cañon City and Fremont County are integrated entities.

“This exciting achievement is something we’ve been strategically working toward to take this rural, Southern Colorado town that once was doggedly labeled as only a mining and prison city and transform it into something that is so much more,” Smith said.

This is the time to put your hearts into preserving the progress that is now in the sights of our community and which is being planned to become its legacy.  There is literally nothing that the presence of a time-limited hard rock mine on the boundary of Cañon City would do that would not physically oppose the mission and goals of Picture Cañon City 2040.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir, Our National Parks (1901).

Zephyr Minerals Activity in Fremont County
2012 Through Second Quarter 2021

Below is a is a comprehensive letter regarding the progress of Zephyr Minerals gold mining aspirations.  The letter was sent out by our organization to multiple groups and agencies throughout our area.  One item of particular note, is the discrepancy between the 33 potential jobs (28 of which would be filled by "highly-skilled rock miners")  that Zephyr's Preliminary Economic Analysis anticipates versus the 90 potential jobs touted by Zephyr's Executive Chairman in a recent newspaper editorial.

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In October 2012, Zephyr Minerals Ltd. acquired control of the Dawson Gold Project and began a continuation of the many years of previous exploratory activity that now includes a progression of Conditional Use Permitting encompassing in excess of 3,500 acres running east and west across central Fremont County. Zephyr executives were welcomed into our community by local citizenry whose mission it was to look after and protect the economic development of Canon City/Fremont County. Zephyr subsequently voiced its assumption that their exploratory/mining project would proceed in a mining friendly community. That assumption was not shared or validated with the citizens of Fremont County in any meaningful way.

Zephyr Minerals’ financial resources have been limited to cover exploratory activities only. Gold resources in the easternmost exploration section (Dawson), just south and west of Dawson Ranch, do not appear to have shown a meaningful increase since 1990 when Jascan Resources Inc. reported finding 121,000 gold ounces, a resource estimate not to be relied upon. Zephyr reports a finding of 116,000 – 121,000 ounces, not necessarily cumulative with Jascan’s findings. Even at todays elevated gold prices, these findings would not cover the start-up costs of an operational, profitable gold mine. Internet searches suggest start-up costs of hundreds of millions of dollars, minimally, for a small to medium sized underground commercial gold mine, including processing capacity. Zephyr possesses nowhere near the resources needed to establish an operational mine and is poorly positioned to interest investors to accommodate their forward-looking hopes and dreams.

Re: March 21, 2017 Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA); National Instrument 43-101 Technical Report prepared for Zephyr Minerals Ltd. by Golder and Associates, Ltd., Canada, regarding the Dawson Property. Golder states the following findings: Page 183, – Personnel – “Hiring highly skilled rock miners with mining experience is highly recommended; however, some positions could be filled using less experienced miners. Lead hands, jumbo operators, scoop operators, production miners, and bolters would need to be skilled miners, while truck drivers and nippers could be less experienced.”

The PEA predicted 33 mining jobs, 28 miners and 5 administrative personnel. This estimate was based on exploratory findings that are consistent with those that currently exist. In his February 14, 2021 op-ed to the Canon City Daily Record, Will Felderhof, Executive Chairman of Zephyr Minerals Ltd., stated that Zephyr envisages employing up to 90 individuals and that “Zephyr has received and continues to receive applications by young people for employment in this venture.” Local “young people” would constitute an insignificant cadre of workers, since nearly all miners would have pre-existing skill levels. This from a Canadian exploratory company with no intact resources to physically mine Dawson.

The issue of city and county road usage by mine haul trucks has yet to be addressed by Zephyr.

Zephyr Minerals Ltd. has declared, in unequivocal terms, that ‘their’ mine will be underground. This differs from their initial plans to target a portion of the Dawson Gold Project’s eastern section (Windy Gulch and Windy Point) for both open pit and underground mining. Paragraph 16.1.23.4, Safety and Environment, p. 187 of the PEA states that “Zephyr decided to omit the pit from the Preliminary Economic Assessment until constraints, such as the mining lease boundary could be expanded, or until the potentially mineable resource could be increased.” Zephyr’s stated commitment to underground mining may be technically accurate, as far as it goes, but is clearly qualified and contradicted when viewed in its total context. Regarding Zephyr’s commitment to underground mining, we draw your attention to Enclosure 1. This January 2020, interview excerpt is highly suggestive that there are significant ore recovery problems within the Dawson section that remain unaddressed in Zephyr’s forward-looking predictions. The entire interview can be viewed on YouTube and/or on the Zephyr Minerals website.

Regardless of the mining method, clear dangers to mining personnel; animal habitation; wind contaminants; fire; usage of scarce water resources; a mine tailings dam that can never be dismantled (in this case, a tailings dam that is positioned 600 vertical feet above the Arkansas River); etc., all contribute to the reasonability of stopping Zephyr’s effort to mine our back yard for a product (gold) of which only seven to eight percent is used for industrial purposes. Approximately seventy to eighty percent is used for jewelry and the rest used for coins, personal holding, medals and awards, etc. Is it worth denigrating our community for the economic ambition of a Canadian exploratory/mining corporation?

STOCKHOUSE: A Canadian financial portal for small cap investors:

Stockhouse stock graphics displayed Zephyr’s graphics from inception in the spring/summer of 2011 to the spring of 2016 to be in an overall steady decline, averaging an overall value in the area of 15 to 20 cents per share. There was an approximate five cent increase over the next 18 months when Zephyr was actively soliciting for investors in Fremont County and other areas overall. Beginning around May 1, 2020, their stock spiked to about $.82 cents per share (US) based on Zephyr’s prediction of a “Broken Hill” type of mineral find (lead, zinc and silver) in their exploratory area (El Plomo) which is central within their exploratory area and is bisected by Grape Creek. Four months later the stock plummeted to a value of ten to twelve cents per share when their exploratory drill target (self admittedly) did not produce the results they had hoped for. Their stock price is now somewhat steady at around 15 cents per share.

SIMPLY WALL STREET: An American financial services company that distributes world-wide investment analysis.

Simply Wall St’s Executive Summary’s risk analysis, updated 3/11/2021 reports:
Earnings have declined by 15.8% per year over the past five years
Does not have a meaningful market cap
Shareholders have been diluted in the past year
FUNDAMENTALS: overvalued portfolio with concerning outlook

Simply Wall St states, regarding future growth, “But as Zephyr Minerals has not provided enough past data and has no analyst forecast, its future earnings cannot be reliably calculated by extrapolating past data or using analyst predictions. This is quite a rare situation as 97% of companies covered by Simply Wall St do have past financial data.”

To fairly judge the accuracy of Zephyr’s public commentary, including projections, plans, estimates, future events, etc. one is advised to review “Management’s Discussion & Analysis For The Year Ended December 31, 2020 (MD&A). The Forward-Looking Information paragraphs of this document provides excellent clarity in this regard. This document is posted on the Canadian System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR). The information is eye-opening, in that it addresses the authenticity/reliability of Zephyr’s commentary.

In the “Going Concern” paragraph of this same document (MD&A) Zephyr states that “If the Company is unable to raise additional capital in the future, the Company may need to curtail operations, liquidate assets, seek additional capital on less favorable terms and/or pursue other remedial measures.” The paragraph entitled “Other Risks and Uncertainties” is too lengthy to be quoted herein but provides an accurate and detailed account of the risks and uncertainties of Zephyr’s proposed operational intent.

Zephyr Minerals Ltd. filed their year-ended December 31, 2020 audited annual financial statement with SEDAR on April 26, 2021. The author of this document, Chartered Professional Accountants Wasserman Ramsay, was retained to represent Zephyr and is headquartered in Ontario, Canada. In an opening paragraph entitled “Material Uncertainty Related to Going Concern” Wasserman Ramsay states “that as of December 31, 2020, the Company has incurred losses resulting in an accumulated deficit of $4,626,014. and that . . . these events or conditions . . . indicate that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. Our opinion is not modified in respect of this matter.”

Tourism is currently the most progressively active source of income and business growth within Fremont County. It has growth potential for decades and beyond. Should we trade this forward-looking opportunity for the permanent scarring of a temporary hard rock mine? Compatibility is an illusion.

Our County Commissioners hold the key to deciding if Fremont County will be opened to hard rock mining. To date, they have taken a permissive stand regarding Zephyr’s march towards obtaining a mining permit. Their responses to opposition have been muted. The Dawson Ranch HOA completed a survey of 502 property owners in April 2020, wherein 86% of respondents voiced overwhelming opposition to Zephyr’s mining plans. The County Commissioners would do well to take similar interest in the positions held by the constituents they serve.

A few local leaders opened the door to Zephyr’s exploratory/mining intent, hopefully with the best of intentions. It is now the job of the local citizenry and existing community leadership to determine the value of continued support for Zephyr’s mining ambition. Is a hard rock mine with an abbreviated life span and the potentially disastrous environmental effects that it drags with it worth the dubious short-term gains claimed by this Canadian Corporation? It is your decision.

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Encl: January 17-18, 2020 Metals Investor Forum Interview w/ Loren Komperdo

Encl: Metals Investor Forum interview with John Kaiser

Excerpt from the January 17-18, 2020, Metals Investor Forum interview in Vancouver, B.C., with John Kaiser, Independent Analyst and Founder, Kaiser Research Online, and Loren Komperdo, CEO of Zephyr Minerals, Ltd.

Subject: Dawson Gold Project @ 10:00 minutes into an 11:37 second interview regarding gold resources in the Dawson section of Zephyr’s exploratory claims.

KAISER: “Now in the Dawson area you’ve got a couple hundred thousand ounces of high grade . . . in which . . . but the limitation there is that the dip of the system is into the mountain, so chasing it deeper is impossible, cost prohibitive, ah, in the Green Mountain area (western most permitted exploratory area) would that same problem apply so that you can only chase it down a couple hundred meters, or is the orientation . . . (Komperdo interrupts)” KOMPERDO: “No, not at all. The Green Mountain area is much more settled topography, so in fact a lot of it, in fact about half of it, is just flat ground so we will be able to drill at significant depth without any problem of running up the mountain and having that structural topography problem that you’ve got at Dawson.”

Interview ends directly thereafter.

The Pervasive Problems of Gold Mining

EarthWorks, https://www.earthworks.org/campaigns/no-dirty-gold/impacts/,  has put together some great information about the impact of gold mining on communities and the environment, stating,

"Gold mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers, and destroy pristine environments. It pollutes water and land with mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and ecosystems. Producing gold for one wedding ring alone generates 20 tons of waste."

Governor Polis Expresses Concern About Mineral Exploration in the Grape Creek Area

**As reported by the "The Mountain Mail" on Aug 11, 2020 
https://www.themountainmail.com/news/article_6aa0a524-db77-11ea-9cd5-df675741b03f.html

Governor Jared Polis has challenged the BLM's decision to allow Zephyr Minerals to perform mineral exploration in the Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area.  In a letter to the Colorado Bureau of Land Management’s Director, Jamie Connell, Gov. Polis stated,

“The BLM’s decision to allow industrial solid mineral exploration activities within a WSA is unprecedented in Colorado, if not nationally, and very worrisome,” Polis said in the letter. “Section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act directs the Secretary of the Department of Interior to prevent ‘unnecessary or undue degradation’ to WSAs that could jeopardize their suitability to be preserved as wilderness. While it’s highly unlikely that any plans to recover a solid mineral claim in the future would satisfy the ‘non-impairment’ criteria set forth in section 1.6.C of the BLM’s WSA Policy Manual, there is still a risk that the proposed exploration could pave the way for development down the road. This possibility only heightens the importance of opening up plans for industrial exploration within WSAs to public scrutiny.”

Zephyr Minerals' Dawson Gold Project--State Application for Grape Creek Mineral Exploration Approved

**INFORMATION COURTESY OF OUR FRIENDS AT WILD CONNECTIONS

Last month, Wild Connections and INFORM appealed the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety (DRMS)'s decision to approve Zephyr's mineral application proposal to expand onto the Grape Creek proposed Wilderness and Wilderness Study Area (WSA).  Unfortunately the appeal was denied by the Mining, Land, and Reclamation Board on July 22, 2020.

In the recent appeal process, Zephyr disclosed that they will be constructing helicopter landing pads, whichshould trigger the BLM to have them submit a Plan of Operations and do an Environmental Assessment.

Inform, Wild Connections, and Central Colorado Wilderness Coalition sent a joint letter to BLM Royal Gorge Field Office and to BLM Colorado, notifying them of Zephyr's updated plans, and the BLM actions that it should trigger.

Governor Polis and Congresswoman DeGette have also recently weighed in with concerning letters to BLM Colorado regarding their lack of action on this.

Zephyr has already began transporting materials via low helicopter flyovers, and they still plan to drill exploratory mining holes, construct helicopter landing pads, and lay pipes that will pump water out of Grape Creek to the exploration sites in BLM's Wilderness Study Area and Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Wild Connections and partners have alerted the BLM that they believe this proposal is illegal as the company does not have a valid existing right because these claims are recent and therefore violate the non-impairment standard of BLM's Wilderness Study Area Manual.

The BLM does not plan to have an official public comment period for this proposal, so we suggest that if you have any concerning comments or questions, or want to let the BLM know that they should not open up the Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area to this mining exploration,

  • direct them to BLM Royal Gorge Field Manager, Keith Berger, at kberger@blm.gov.
  • BLM won’t be keeping an official record of these comments, so please CC your comment to info@wildconnections.org who will be compiling comments.

For more information and actions to take, see: http://www.wildconnections.org/conservation/goldmininggrapecreek.html.

Take EcoFlight's Grape Creek Virtual Tour, with intro by Congresswoman DeGette at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9CR-fPdFJE

Zephyr Minerals Application to Nearly Triple Size Approved by Fremont County Commissioners

Zephyr Minerals applied for a major modification of their Dawson Gold Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in Fremont County, nearly tripling the size of their mining exploration, expanding the area from 593 acres to 1762 acres.  The additional 1169 acres included in this application is entirely public land.  It includes the Grape Creek Trust Land as well as land to both the east and west of the Trust Land, and it is adjacent to Temple Canyon Park.  During exploration activities, the application states that the site will operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, during the period from July 1st through October 30th, which are prime recreation and hunting periods in that area for both residents and tourists.  Zephyr's ultimate goal, as stated in the application letter, is to mine this area.  The complete application can be found on the county website at https://www.fremontco.com/files/planning-and-zoning/current-projects/cup-major-mod-app6162019-reduced.pdf.

The Fremont County Commissioners unanimously approved this expansion on February 25th:  https://www.canoncitydailyrecord.com/2020/02/25/fremont-county-commissioners-ok-zephyr-permit-modification/.

Additionally, Zephyr has submitted a Plan of Operations to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  In a letter dated 12/23/19, the BLM outlined 19 items that were insufficient in that submission:  https://dnrweblink.state.co.us/drms/0/edoc/1293653/2019-12-23_GENERAL%20DOCUMENTS%20-%20P2013002.pdf.

The Colorado State Land Board received nearly 200 pages of letters of opposition against exploration and mining in this area.  They can be found on the State Land Board website starting on page 16 of this packet:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VeD8X_zNbdsxAuu2Y31LTF4etbAUsABc/view.

Bureau of Land Management Releases Draft Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan

The Bureau of Land Management has released the Draft Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan & Environmental Impact Statement (RMP).  Once finalized, this plan will establish specific goals, objectives, allowable uses, management actions, and special designations for managing lands within the Royal Gorge Field Office.

The public was invited to participate during the 90-day public comment period that ended  September 20, 2019.  This RMP will govern the use of our public lands for the next two decades, so we are anxiously awaiting the publication of the final RMP.

April 24th:  Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety Rejects Appeal of the Approval of the Dawson Gold Project NOI Permit Modification

In February, the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) approved a modification to the Dawson Gold Project Notice of Intent to Prospect (NOI). This modification allows Zephyr Minerals to expand the Dawson Gold Project further east toward the Dawson Ranch Subdivision. This also allows them to build new roads that may intersect the Hot Shots Trail of the popular Section 13/South Canon Trails according to Zephyr's representative, Angela Bellantoni, of Environmental Alternatives: https://dnrweblink.state.co.us/drms/0/edoc/1275362/2019-03-28_REVISION%20-%20P2013002.pdf?searchid=29069fbf-7072-4aa6-82b7-660d26e65fb4.

The DRMS decision was appealed, and the Mined Land Reclamation Board agreed to hear the petition for appeal at the March 27-28, 2019, Board Meeting. On March 19, Zephyr requested a continuance of the hearing until the April 24th-25th Board Meeting. At the April 24th hearing, the appeal was denied based on the lack of DRMS jurisdiction regarding Zephyr Minerals' lack of legally established access to their areas of operation.

During the hearing, the Board Chairman inquired whether Zephyr had easements or rights-of-way to access their claims. Both the DRMS staff and the appellants testified that neither existed. It was later noted by another Board member that Fremont County Planning and Zoning had lifted the contingency placed on the Dawson Gold Project County Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requiring proof of legally established access to all areas of exploration. The Board member inquired of the appellants why the county had provided a letter stating that Zephyr's access had been "legally established" when neither easements nor rights-of-way existed. The appellants responded that there are no legal agreements between Zephyr and the multiple property owners, thus there is no legally established access, and the Planning and Zoning Division should never have lifted the contingency.

April 11th:  Colorado State Land Board Approves Grape Creek-Horseshoe Mountain State Stewardship Trust Land Mining Lease

On April 11th, after acknowledging the large number of letters received in opposition, the Colorado State Land Board (SLB) approved Zephyr Minerals' request for a mineral lease for the Grape Creek-Horseshoe Mountain State Stewardship Trust Land adjacent to the southwest corner of Temple Canyon Park. In a 4 to 1 vote, the SLB voted to lease this property for $1,920 per year.  Grape Creek runs throughout this parcel making it a popular fishing as well as hunting destination.

The details of the lease as well as the nearly 200 pages of opposition can be found in the meeting packet at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VeD8X_zNbdsxAuu2Y31LTF4etbAUsABc/view.

The next steps of the process will be the permitting of this expansion of the project at both the county and state levels.  Please watch for our email updates about the public input timelines of these very important steps.