BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado is witnessing renewed interest in prospecting for gold. It’s understandable, with the precious metal currently selling for around $1,700 per ounce.
People who go after gold in Colorado often start by buying claims from a mine brokerage company called Grubstaker. Owner Wallie Robinson said he sees many customers who are jumping into prospecting because of the high price of gold but they often initially don’t know what they are doing.
One example of such a person is Chandler Cook of Orlando, Fla., admittedly a “beginning prospector.” Cook is blamed for turning a creek orange in October in western Boulder County.
Watch Part 1 of Paul Day’s report in the video below:
The spill happened, according to Cook, when he and friends dug a trench leading away from the abandoned Alicia Mine. Cook told officials the “trench was solely to stop the orange goo coming out into my campsite.” That goo was actually iron oxide, and an estimated 15,000 gallons of contaminated water leaked out.
The problem emerged because Cook wasn’t where he thought he was. A mix-up in mapping information put him on somebody else’s private property. Cook broke the law by failing to obtain the necessary prospecting permit from the state.
Watch Part 2 of Paul Day’s report in the video below:
Grubstaker had actually sold Cook mineral rights at the James Creek Placer. Cook unknowingly had set up his camp on private property at the abandoned Alicia Mine — 1,000 feet downstream from where Cook should have been.
Cook was asked to explain the mixup at a hearing of the state’s Mined Land Reclamation Board.
“I guess it wasn’t the right numbers. I’m not quite sure what happened,” Cook said.
“I was his problem. He was in the wrong place,” Robinson said. “We always try to make sure everybody knows all about where their claims are.”
Cook now admits he was at fault because he misread the information from Grubstaker.
“I’d like to apologize to the community for the accident,” he said.
Cook has been been fined $5,000 by the Board. Additionally, the attorney general’s office is now considering legal action against Cook to recover the cost of cleaning up the mine.
State dollars are paying for the emergency cleanup effort that has resulted on the banks of the mountain stream by the Alicia Mine.
The effort is aimed at collecting as much iron oxide as possible without disturbing the soil, according to environmental protection specialist Julie Annear. The material is loaded into one cubic yard bags headed for a disposal site. The contaminant contains harmful heavy metals but only in small quantities, and for purposes of putting it in a landfill it is considered to be non-toxic.
“We don’t want precipitate lying around that close to the creek where it could be washed into the creek,” Annear said.
Michael Cunningham with the state’s Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety says the spill could have been avoided if people simply followed the rules.
“That interest (in gold) may come from people who aren’t as experienced in mining. They could get themselves in trouble. There could be missteps along the way,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham says required permits are designed to protect people and the planet.