OURAY – Work at the historic Camp Bird Mine is at a virtual stand-still this week, with 15 of 22 workers laid off for at least 45 days.
Ronald “Bumper” Williams, Vice President of Operations for the mine’s new operator Caldera Mineral Resources, Inc., told The Watch on Monday that the shutdown is “temporary” as Caldera seeks to secure funding.
“There were a few unexpected situations underground, and we shut her down until we can raise the funds,” he explained.
The layoffs went into effect last week. Williams estimated it would take a total of 45 days to raise the needed funds to get the operation going again.
Seven workers remain on site – mostly staff electricians and safety personnel – who will continue conducting work above ground.
Williams said he regretted having to impose the layoffs. Having spent a lifetime in the mining industry, he is well aware that the risk of laying off miners is that they will tramp camp and look for work elsewhere. If the workers choose to return when the mine starts up again, they will be given first right of refusal to get their old jobs back, he said.
Up until now, work at the Camp Bird Mine had progressed quickly since last September, when negotiations began in earnest to transfer majority ownership of the historic mine from Federal Resources Corp. to the California-based Caldera Mineral Resources, Inc. via a lease purchase option.
Federal Resources has owned the Camp Bird Mine under its subsidiary Camp Bird Colorado Inc. since the 1950s (with majority shareholder Bentley Blum at its helm since 1983). The transaction between Federal Resources and Caldera was set to close at the end of March.
That closing has been delayed, however, partially due to ongoing CERCLA litigation over three environmentally troubled mining properties owned by Blum in Idaho.
Meanwhile, over the past several months, Caldera CEO John Bryan has made frequent trips to Singapore to coordinate principal investors, and work has steadily continued at the Camp Bird Mine. This started with portal stabilization and surface work at the 14-level, after which a team of miners under Williams’ supervision started working their way back into the historic underground mine workings, which have been sealed off for the past 30 years.
“We were right to the intersection [of the tunnel and the Camp Bird Vein], a little over two miles inside the mine,” when the shutdown happened, Williams said. He reported that the tunnel is in good condition, but that once his crew reached the intersection, they discovered the hoist in the back end to be in quite poor condition after 30 years of neglect.
“These things aren’t cheap,” Williams said. “We are right at the vein; we’ve still got a lot of rehab to do. It will be quite an undertaking.”
Although a seasoned miner, Williams admitted it is “pretty amazing” to be deep inside the legendary Camp Bird Mine. In spite of the present set-back, he was optimistic about the prospects for the venture. “It’ll go,” he said. “It’s all being structured for the long term.”
At press time, Blum and Caldera Chief Financial Officer Sturges Karban had not responded to requests for comment.
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