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Is silver the solution?

Letter by Paul Martz

Summitville – July 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

Is Silver the Solution? or, Who Makes the Rules?


I’d like to comment on a misstatement of fact in a part of Briefs from the San Luis Valley in the June edition of Colorado Central. The topic was Summitville Studies and the brief states that “The river was contaminated with copper and other toxic substances after leaks from the leach-pit mining operation of Galactic Resources….”

In fact the Alamosa River was long ago polluted by natural run-off from the extensive mineralization present, as well as from historic mine dumps going back to the 1880s. I doubt that the minor amount of leakage from Galactic’s pit ever made it anywhere near the river, in particular because acidic soils and groundwater “quench” cyanide solution immediately.

The old dumps and the natural outcrops both provide sulfuric acid in copious quantities, and this carries heavy metals in solution, of which copper would be one of the first to dissolve. The mining operation did not use sulfuric acid as a leachate.

It may also interest Colorado Central readers that the EPA has been operating the Galactic mine as a for-profit gold mine. The EPA has run up against the same silver-in-solution problem that Galactic faced. You know the problem, the one that prompted the EPA to declare an “emergency” and take over the operation to avoid an “environmental disaster.”

Well, it looks as though the state is going to let the feds release silver in solution at the same level that the state had previously denied to Galactic.

This makes a lot of us wonder why the EPA is now forcing a change in the regulations, if that standard that was applied to Galactic was necessary to protect the environment.

Perhaps Leadville is no longer the hot destination for bureaucrats — now it’s Telluride or Wolf Creek Pass? But then I’ve been called cynical and suspicious before.

Paul Martz Headwaters Geological Consulting Poncha Springs