Miners consider comebacks in the San Juan Mountains

Brief by Allen Best

Mining – June 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

The startling prosperity of China and India continues to reverberate in mountain towns and valleys of the West. Those surging economies of Asia have caused heightened demand for all manner of minerals, which in turn is producing some attention to the potential of renewed mining.

Molybdenum mining at Climax is almost certain to reopen in 2009, and in San Juan County, where Silverton is located, owners of mining properties are examining the economic landscape.

“I don’t look for mining to make a quick comeback,” said Larry Perino, reclamation manager for the Sunnyside Mine, which is located adjacent to the Silverton Mountain Ski Area. He said environmental regulations are extensive, the permitting process lengthy, and both labor and affordable housing now in short supply in Silverton. “You would have to see metal prices stay high.”

But Todd Hennis, who owns a variety of mining properties near Silverton, seems more optimistic. The Silverton Standard reports that Hennis, who lives in Silver Plume, between Denver and Summit County, has been attending mining conventions in Canada in recent months in an attempt to probe interest.

Working in favor of renewed mining near Silverton is the high content of zinc in many of the ores. Zinc was recently selling for $1.44 per pound in London, almost tripled from just a year ago. It sold for 45 cents a pound when the Sunnyside Mine closed in the early 1990s. Also a factor is whether gold and silver prices, also common in the ores of the San Juan Mountains, continue to rise. Gold is now at $626 per ounce and silver at $14.10 per ounce.