A Colorado-based mining company that wants to extract gold from Colorado River gravels has formally appealed the Bureau of Land Management's decision to revoke its mining claims as economically infeasible.
Ron Pene, project manager for Pene Mining, filed the appeal Monday with the BLM's regional solicitor in Salt Lake City, claiming the BLM's study is a "sham examination" that "withheld information, fabricated sample weights and contained false documentation.""I want people to know the truth. That is all I am looking for is the truth," Pene told the Deseret News.
According to the appeal, BLM district manager Kate Kitchell was predisposed to revoke Pene Mining's mineral claims in Westwater Canyon above Moab. It also claims the review was anything but objective.
A key component of that claim is an interview Kitchell gave to the High Country News in October 1995 where she declared "the agency could also get rid of the rest of the Pene claims if it can prove mining can't make a reasonable profit."
That statement was made before the BLM conducted its study and determined that Pene Mining could not make a reasonable profit. "What that amounts to is she established what they were going to do and how they were going to do it," Pene said.
That same issue of High Country News also contained a quote from BLM official Sal Venticinque saying "the agency could kill at least some of the claims simply because of their filing dates." Venticinque was later assigned as one of the six examiners who reviewed the Pene claims.
The appeal also questions the BLM's methods in conducting its tests on river gravels, and the personal relationships between BLM staffers and the Salt Lake lab that conducted the tests. Pene claims that 50 percent of the BLM's samples came from tailings piles left by old miners after they had removed the gold.
Furthermore, one placer claim and nine lode claims were declared void by the BLM without the benefit of any sample analysis.
Pene has also challenged the accuracy of the samples analyzed by the BLM, arguing the weight of the samples is inconsistent with the amount of gravel actually removed from the test holes.
Pene said the BLM has not allowed Pene Mining to do any sampling or production to establish a valid dollar value of the claim. "They have put regulatory roadblock after regulatory roadblock to keep me from doing what has to be done out there," he said.
Last month, the BLM announced it had filed a complaint to revoke the Pene Mining claims in the canyon, which is a popular white-water rafting area. The analysis concluded the claims contained only about $42,000 in minerals - far less than what it would cost the company to extract the gold.
The BLM initially withdrew the area from mining activity in 1975 because of its wilderness potential. The agency accidentally let the withdrawal lapse in 1982, and Pene Mining filed the first round of mining claims in 1984.
The Colorado River has long tempted gold miners. Members of the 1869 Colorado River expedition headed by John Wesley Powell panned for gold along the way, and Powell's 1871 expedition encountered miners in Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon.
None of the miners ever struck it rich, most finding the fine-grained gold too difficult to extract and the remoteness of the geography too daunting for a commercial mining operation on the scale needed to make it economically viable.