Efforts to revamp an aspiring silver and gold mine in La Plata Canyon have been put on hold for the foreseeable future as company officials decide which direction to take the long-inactive site just west of Durango.
“We just want to make sure we don’t make any decisions that don’t make good sense,” said Sara Glinatsis, manager of Sunrise Mining.
The Mayday-Idaho mining complex, a historic mine off County Road 124 that once was a boon for silver and gold, has sat idle for years.
In 2008, however, then-owner of the mine James Clements began illegally mining under the name Wildcat Mining. Ultimately, Clements lost the mine after investigators found he cut a road through the La Plata River, blasted two mine portals and built a mill inside the mine workings, which drew fierce backlash from neighbors and state regulators.
Wildcat Mining brought in new leadership in 2013 to reverse a long history of running afoul of state regulations. In December 2016, the company crossed a major threshold when the state reinstated the company’s permit for the mine.
In February 2017, a new company took over operations, Sunrise Mining, which is led by Glinatsis, who is based in Arvada, and her father, Jack Nielsen, a farmer in North Platte, Nebraska, who has been involved in the mining operation since 2014.
Ever since Sunrise Mining has taken over the Mayday-Idaho site, the company has been in good standing with the state, said Lucas West, an environmental protection specialist with the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.
An inspection in August 2018 found the company had been keeping up and maintaining the site. West wrote in an inspection report, “The overall footprint of the site was in good condition and free from excessive trash and debris.”
But, it appears, there has been no substantial progress that would lead to the reopening of the mine, a process that would require additional permits from La Plata County and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
This week, Sunrise Mining asked the state for a temporary pause on the permit, which was granted. The company still has to conduct stormwater control, structure maintenance and noxious weed management, among other tasks, but it won’t have to continue testing for water quality, which hasn’t shown any effects in recent years, West said.
Glinatsis said the company will take the next few months to figure out the plan for the Mayday-Idaho mining complex.
The father and daughter duo don’t have any background in mining. She’s in information technology, and her father is a farmer who got interested in mining.
If operations were to move forward, Glinatsis said it would be on a small scale, with some waste rock removal and basic exploration to find out what reserves are left in the historic mine. Any sort of full-scale operation would require an outside company to lead the effort, she said.
“But at this point, we need to figure out what we want to do,” she said. “We really are trying to do the right thing … and don’t want to move it too quickly.”