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."

Zephyr Minerals Update Through 2020 Year End

In October 2012, Zephyr Minerals, Ltd. acquired control of the Dawson Gold Project and began a continuation of the many years of previous exploratory activities in what now includes a progression of Conditional Use Permitting encompassing in excess of 3,500 acres.  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.

Let’s look at their progress over the last nine and a half years from a financial standpoint.

SEDAR:  System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval is a filing system developed for the Canadian Securities Administrators providing access to public securities documents.

Zephyr’s Interim Financial Statement that ended September 30, 2020, filed on SEDAR, quoted Zephyr in their Going Concern paragraph in which Zephyr stated that they have sufficient funds to meet their minimum obligations for the next twelve months but that “In order to develop the property, the company will need to raise additional capital.  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.”  This is an improvement over the previous year’s report in which Zephyr stated that it did not have sufficient operating assets for the coming year.

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 for the next 18 months when Zephyr was actively soliciting for investors in Fremont County and other areas overall. Beginning about May 1, 2020 their stock spiked to approximately $.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 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 did not produce the results they anticipated.  It is now somewhat steady around 15 cents per share.

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

SIMPLY WALL ST’s Executive Summary’s risk analysis, updated 3/12/2020 reports:

  • Earnings have declined by 15.8% per year over past five years
  • Does not have a meaningful market cap
  • Shareholders have been diluted in the past year

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.”

Zephyr Minerals’ financial health has been limited to cover exploratory activities only.  Their spring, 2020 stock spike with the announcement of a new mineral find (lead, zinc and silver) adjacent to Grape Creek did not meet their expectations.  After drilling one exploratory hole in the summer/fall of the year, drill results proved to be inconclusive.  Gold resources in the easternmost exploration section, just south and west of Dawson Ranch, do not appear to have increased 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 ounces, not necessarily cumulative with Jascan’s findings.  Even at today’s 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 fifty to one hundred million dollars for a small commercial mine.  Zephyr has nowhere near the resources currently needed to establish an operational mine and is poorly positioned to interest investors to accommodate their forward-looking hopes and dreams.

Zephyr Minerals or any other exploratory/mining company simply contradicts the progressive well-being of our community.  We are working to project tourism as the economic future of our county.  A transient gold mine is antithetical to that end.  Zephyr’s latest stated time frame for the active life expectancy of a mine is five years, after which we will own its remnants and shortfalls.  Think Cotter!

Zephyr Minerals has recently stated their intent to apply for a mining permit in the first half of 2021.  This would be a very large step forward for them (backward for us) towards saddling our community with the destructive elements associated with being a mining community.  It is contrary to the public interest – into perpetuity.

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.

HAMET Helicopter Training on Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Royal Gorge Field Office recently sought public comment on a proposal from the U.S. Army Fort Carson to conduct High Altitude Mountain Environment Training (HAMET) on public lands in Fremont, Teller and Park counties. The HAMET proposal involves helicopters briefly touching down on and flying over public lands. Fort Carson is requesting use of 43 landing zones with a total of 6,200 landings per year.

The BLM prepared a draft Environmental Assessment addressing issues pertaining to wildlife, recreation, noise, and cultural resources, among others. The draft EA, maps, and information can be found on the BLM ePlanning site https://go.usa.gov/xywF7. The public comment period has ended, and we are awaiting the release of the final Environmental Assessment.

The map below shows the proposed landing sites and the noise impacts that will affect multiple communities and the surrounding areas.  The proposed action has the potential to impact homes, cultural resources, wildlife, recreation and income generated from visitors to the area.

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.