The evening's speaker was Allen Sorenson of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Minerals and Geology. The agency is charged with the following duties:
- Review mine plans
- Set reclamation bonds
- Perform mine inspections
- Enforce rules and regulations
For those who believed that mining in Colorado is dead, Allen's office, during the past year, has reviewed requests for 2,500 mining permits on more than 2,000 prospects. That is some kind of busy!
For our purposes, Allen reminds us that a total surface disturbance of 1,600 square feet or less is regarded as "recreational use" and requires no written authorization. (Naturally, you are required to reclaim your diggings no matter how small.) For anything larger than this, you are required to file a Notice of Intent. The state is quite fair about this and we certainly would want to obey the letter of the law.
The DNR also has publications for sale, including the bible of Colorado placerers, the work by Ben Parker entitled "Gold Placers of Colorado." Other publications on mining and geology are also available at reasonable prices. As examples of current placer mines, Allen showed slides of the Snowstorm and Alma placers in Park County. (I did an evaluation of the Snowstorm about twenty-five years ago and I was startled by the size of the excavation.)
Allen pointed out that artisanal placer miners worldwide still use mercury to maximize gold recovery. (Artisanal miners are small scale operators who actually feed themselves and their families by their efforts.) Unless you are faced with starvation or really know what you are doing, it is not wise to use mercury. It is very toxic to you and to the environment. Much better to be safe and leave just a bit of the gold to nature. Ditto for cyanide. If you're into leaching, there are other leachates available which are much safer. Fool with mercury or cyanide and you wonÕt even save enough for your own coffin!
Concluding, Allen mentioned that the current gold operation at Victor-Cripple Creek has requested a permit increase to mine two million ounces per year. That is big league! Reports of the death of gold mining in Colorado are definitely premature!