Tag Archives: Mount Taylor

6/29/2012 Gallup Independent: La Jara uranium mine would impact Mount Taylor TCP By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau

6/29/2011 La Jara Uranium Mine Would Impact Mount Taylor TCP“>

11/10/2011 Durango Herald: Wildcat’s mining permit approved

11/10/2011 Durango Herald: Wildcat’s mining permit approved – Initial access to mines allowed only for water sampling, cleanup surveys By Joe Hanel Herald Staff Writer: DENVER – State regulators approved a permit for a controversial gold mine in La Plata Canyon on Wednesday, but it comes with a long list of conditions and does not allow mining until the company has cleaned up the messes it made. Since Wildcat Mining Corp. took over historic mines near the hamlet of Mayday in 2006, it has built an illegal road, blasted two mine portals and moved a mill into one of the mines, all without a permit. All three portals into the mine have collapsed either completely or partially, endangering a road above. Water is leaking from the mine. Engineers and neighbors also have concerns about the stability of the company’s illegal road, which descends from County Road 124 across the La Plata River.

Regulators with the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety reasoned that the only way they could ensure a cleanup was to get the mines and road a new permit, which the governor-appointed Mined Land Reclamation Board approved unanimously Wednesday.

Board members stressed that the permit initially will allow access to the mines only for water sampling and other surveys needed to begin cleanup work. Without a permit, Wildcat officials are not supposed to enter the mines for any reason.

“The permit doesn’t authorize any mining or any milling,” said MLRB member Bob Randall.

Elizabeth Paranhos, who represents environmental interests on the board, said she was comfortable with plans to approve a permit with many conditions.

“What’s happening now is really a matter of data gathering without doing any further mining or milling,” Paranhos said.

Wildcat Mining also said Wednesday’s decision is a step forward.

“The Mined Land Reclamation Board’s unanimous vote today to accept the recommendation by the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety for approval with conditions for the May Day Idaho Mine Complex will allow Wildcat Mining to move forward in a measured fashion to resolve existing issues on the project site,” Randall Oser, Wildcat Mining president, said in an email. “We are pleased with DRMS’s recommendations and the Board’s work to ensure that all stakeholders have been informed and involved.”

But the assurances were not enough for several La Plata Canyon residents who testified by phone against approval of the permit.

“The division has never given a permit of this type. I don’t think now is the time to start, especially with this operator,” said Scott Collignon, a longtime critic who lives across the river from the mine.

Indeed, Wally Erickson of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety said he doubted the state has ever approved a permit with such a long list of conditions.

Robert Abshire, a Native American student at Fort Lewis College, testified by phone from a room he said was filled with 30 fellow Native students.

The mine sits on a sacred mountain for the Navajo Nation, and it cannot be worked on without violating sacred space and possibly federal laws, Abshire said.

Wildcat lawyer Penfield Tate said the mine has been blessed by Native Americans in the past, and the company has a medicine man on retainer in case people think it needs another ceremony.

Company officials say they have a new team in place and blamed former owner Mike Clements for the company’s previous problems.

Roger Tichenor, Wildcat’s new CEO, said he didn’t appreciate the depth of the problems when he invested in Wildcat. He decided to take control of the company and bring in experts to repair the damage.

“We’re here to do things right. We’re here to make it right and run a profitable business,” Tichenor said.

But neighbor Phil Vigil isn’t convinced.

“A new owner really doesn’t make for a new operation,” Vigil said, testifying by phone.

The company will have to make a series of applications to amend the permit before it can begin mining, Erickson said.


5/12/2011 The New Mexican: Members of state board say Martinez coaxed them into pro-mine decision on Mount Taylor

Members of state board say Martinez coaxed them into pro-mine decision on Mount Taylor: Associated Press file photo Some members of the state Cultural Properties Review Committee say Gov. Susana Martinez pressured them into turning around their stance on a Traditional Cultural Property designation for Mount Taylor, shown in the background. The committee voted two years ago to designate the 11,305-foot extinct volcano, which some fear would hinder the mining industry there, and did not challenge a judge’s remand of the decision.

Some members of the state Cultural Properties Review Committee accuse Gov. Susana Martinez of pressuring them to change their vote to protect Mount Taylor because uranium companies want to mine there.  “When a committee decides things, some official up in the state office can’t tell you how you’re going to vote or what you’re supposed to do,” said committee member Clarence Fielder. “But that’s what it seems like they’re trying do.”

The committee voted two years ago to make the 11,305-foot extinct volcano and surrounding mesas north of Grants a Traditional Cultural Property. But after uranium-mining firms and other landowners appealed to state District Court, state District Judge William Shoobridge of Lovington remanded the committee’s decision.

Before a March 17 meeting, Adam Feldman, the governor’s director of Boards and Commissions, asked some members to go along with Shoobridge’s order rather than join a challenge to the state Court of Appeals by Acoma Pueblo, according to Fielder.

Gubernatorial spokesman Scott Darnell said Martinez did not pressure the committee members. But he said that since the committee had only been briefed on the issue by its attorney in the case, John Pound of Santa Fe, Feldman “asked if the board would be willing to discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting, where alternative viewpoints could be shared.”

“The governor is certainly concerned about the economic impact of overly broad designations of land as cultural property,” Darnell said. “She does believe a balance should be achieved between important cultural designations of land and the state’s future economic growth. In this case, her concern was predominantly that members of the (Cultural Properties Review Committee) have the best and most complete information available to them.”

The committee voted unanimously to join the appeal. Pound declined comment. The appellate court is not expected to act for months.

Committee Chairman Ed Boles, a historic planner for the city of Albuquerque, subsequently asked not to be reappointed to the committee, effectively tendering his resignation. He did not respond to a message seeking comment but indicated in a letter that he objected to the Governor’s Office trying to influence him.

Laguna Pueblo Gov. Richard Luarkie, who served as the board’s tribal representative, recused himself from the vote because his pueblo had nominated Mount Taylor. Luarkie even left the room while other committee members huddled with their attorney. The governor later removed Luarkie from the committee and replaced him with Ronald Toya of Jemez Pueblo.

Darnell said Luarkie was removed because he did not disclose Laguna Pueblo’s role in the lawsuit during the appointment process.

Luarkie was not available for comment. Toya referred questions to the Governor’s Office. “I haven’t even had my first meeting yet,” he said. “I’m getting up to speed on everything. Let me get my feet wet, and then I’ll be glad to talk to you.”

Reginald Richey, a Lincoln architect appointed to the committee this year, said Feldman never asked him to change his vote.

“He asked me what happened at the meeting, and I told him,” he said. “I don’t have enough of an opinion yet on that. It’s still very much in a state of flux.”

State Historian Rick Hendricks, who serves on the committee because of his state job, said he believes the Governor’s Office is overreacting to the designation of Mount Taylor. He said two companies already have state permits to resume uranium mining in the area, and Traditional Cultural Property designation should not prevent mining on private land within the area.

“It’s just that there’s very much a climate, I think, that is anti-historic-preservation, anti-government-involvement,” he said. “It doesn’t really seem to me that the negatives that most people associate with (traditional cultural properties) are really even there at all. It’s not unique to New Mexico. Historic preservation is under attack all over the country.”

Alan “Mac” Watson, the committee chairman under Gov. Bill Richardson, this week sent out a news release about the controversy, noting that because Martinez has been slow to appoint members to the committee, it didn’t have a quorum of five of the nine positions until the March 17 meeting.

Watson said the designation has not brought the predicted negative effects on the area’s economy. Cibola County’s unemployment rate fell slightly since the designation was made, he said.

State law requires the Cultural Properties Review Committee to include an architect, an archaeologist and a historian, in addition to the state historian. “The whole point of requiring those professions is that they’re the people with the education, the experience, the expertise that puts them in a position where they can professionally identify cultural properties,” Watson said. “My thinking is that what the governor should do is appoint qualified professionals and then get out of the way to allow them to do their job.”

Fielder, who retired last year as a history professor at New Mexico State University, is the only committee member appointed by Richardson who was reappointed by Martinez.

He said that although he thinks Martinez was wrong to pressure the board, he has no intention of resigning. “I’d like to stay,” he said. “That’s why I asked the governor to reappoint me, and she did, and I have a certificate and everything. She could take it back, though.”

Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or tsharpe@sfnewmexican.com.