Town Hall tackles illegal Red Arrow gold mill

One Mancos Valley resident is concerned that an unpermitted milling operation could potentially pollute the ground water.

A private land use consultant, Brian Kimble, addressed the Mancos town trustees last week regarding the impacts of the Red Arrow gold mill. He was especially uneasy about possible pollution that could result as environmental officials weigh remediation efforts.

"How fast are they going to respond?" Kimble questioned trustees at their bimonthly meeting last Wednesday. "They've known about this since June."

Kimble said he has previously worked with various governmental agencies, and he understands the bureaucratic red tape that can arise. He hopes Mancos will keep pressure on agency officials, and he offered his expertise if needed.

"I'm here to offer any support or aid that I can," he said. "I'm not afraid to call and ask what's being done."

Mayor Rachel Simbeck said the town's drinking water has not been impacted, citing the town's water is diverted upstream from the contaminated site.

"The town will be involved," she said. "We will make sure the town's needs and interests are addressed."

At last week's meeting, two handouts were distributed to residents, including an Aug. 28 memo from Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. DRMS officials stated in the memo that the agency does not believe the sites present an "immediate threat to public health or safety."

DRMS and Environmental Protection Agency officials are expected to meet in coming weeks to further assess both the mining and milling sites to formulate a remediation plan, Simbeck said. She anticipates a community meeting will also be scheduled with the two agencies to discuss concerns and remedies.

To help alleviate community fears, Trustee Chip Tuthill made a motion for the town to take all necessary steps to protect the town's public safety, including measures to recoup financial loses from Red Arrow gold mine that result from cleanup efforts. The motion passed by a 3-2 margin.

"I want the town to know that we are behind them 100 percent," Tuthill said.

Voting against the measure were Trustee Rovilla Ellis and Mayor ProTem Perry Lewis, who questioned how the town could legally recover any out-of-pocket expenses.

"I'm hesitant to rush into any decision," Lewis said. "We don't have all of the information."

Courtroom battle

The illegal milling was discovered after District Court Judge Todd Plewe ordered Red Arrow gold mine assets into receivership in April.

The property was closed in June when DRMS inspectors discovered the unpermitted milling operation was using mercury amalgamation with no environmental protection.

Located just outside of Mancos town limits on West Grand Avenue, the mill-site property and warehouse is owned by William Boyd. Both buildings were leased to Craig Liukko, operator of the Red Arrow mine.

Last month, DRMS fined Liukko $337,167 for operating a mill without a license and five other mining violations.

Boyd's attorney, John Kelly, has filed an eviction order against Luikko, but Plewe stayed the complaint Friday because of new bankruptcy proceedings in Texas.

"There is personal property that is stored in the building," said Kelly in a courtroom teleconference. "We aren't particularly pleased about storing that property for free."

Kelly said up to $200,000 of personal property is currently stored on the premises, some of which is contaminated with mercury, he added.

Boyd said he has been blocked from accessing his property.

"I had some plans for the site, but not anymore," he said.

Based in Katy, Texas, He-Man LLC secured a $25 million commercial loan from Maximillian Investors LLC of Delaware to finance the Red Arrow gold mining operations near Mancos. He-Man LLC filed for bankruptcy on Friday, and until the bankruptcy case is disposed, Boyd is left in limbo.

The eviction hearing was rescheduled for Nov. 8.