Det låter orimligt att detta (se artikeln nedan från My San Antonio) skulle kunna stoppa starten av underjordsbrytning. Men man börjar ju fundera över om det är något som bidrar till att fördröja kommersiell drift vid Shafter och bolaget har precis som förra gången meddelat att man vid det conf call som ska hållas på tisdag (länk) så stryper man frågestunden på samma värdelösa sätt (max 20 minuter och ingen får ställa följdfrågor) som förra kvartalet. Då fick man öppen kritik även av de mäklare som bevakar bolaget men väljer ändå att fortsätta på samma vis. Märkligt...
SHAFTER (länk till artikeln) — More than seven decades after its glory days as one of the richest silver mines in the Southwest, La Mina Grande is roaring back to life in a remote mountainous corner of the Big Bend.
Huge Terex and Volvo trucks are rumbling two shifts a day, hauling away waste rock and bringing ore to new on-site processing plant where the sparkling gray material is pulverized and then treated with cyanide to extract precious metals.
With the silver price hovering around $35 an ounce — up from $5 a decade ago — the mine's owners, Aurcana Corp., are looking clairvoyant.
“With production costs of significantly less than $10 an ounce, the idea of reopening this mine was a very good one,” said Greg Miller, a mining consultant for Aurcana, which bought the Rio Grande Mining Co. in 2008 for $40 million, since has invested $60 million to revive the operation.
Miller said some of the sweet spots are proving as rich as chocolate cake.
“Some of it's coming in at 500 ounces per ton. That's $15,000 per loader scoop,” he said.
But there are clouds on the horizon. Alarms being raised by several landowners who worry about the mine's plan to pump vast quantities of water from deep, flooded tunnels. They fear wells might go dry and that massive discharges might harm the desert.
“This is the major issue in the county as far as water resources are concerned,” said John Poindexter, owner of the adjacent 30,000-acre Cibolo Creek Ranch, where well-heeled guests come to get away from it all.
“We fear the possibility of the drying up of Cibolo Creek and other live watercourses, the exhaustion of springs and large declines in water tables,” Poindexter wrote in an August letter to the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District.
In recent weeks, the Texas General Land Office and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department also have raised questions and objections about the mine's plans to remove as much as 1,000 acre-feet of water from flooded deep tunnels.
“The decisions regarding this project may have long-lasting impacts to critically important aquatic resources in arguably the driest region in Texas,” wrote Scott Boruff, a Parks & Wildlife director.
A clutch of political figures, including state senators Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and Jose R. Rodriguez, D- El Paso, as well as outgoing state Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine, who was elected to Congress last week, have expressed their concern and support to the water district board.
On Monday, the board will meet in Presidio with La Mina Grande's pumping and discharge issues high on the agenda.
In the meantime, the mine, just off U.S. 87 south of Shafter, is producing silver from surface deposits. If all goes well, its owners hope to soon begin underground mining from more than 100 miles of old tunnels.
Long before the region was a tourist magnet for rafters, hikers and campers, it was hard-rock mining country, generating more than 90 percent of the silver and 70 percent of the gold in Texas. But that ended many decades ago.
The recent reopening of La Mina Grande continues a pattern going back to the mid-19th century when rancher John Spencer first found silver deposits in the Chinati Mountains south of Marfa. He shipped the ore to Mexico to be smelted.
Others, including noted Indian fighter Col. William R. Shafter, later began developed the deposits near the town that still bears his name. Between 1885 ant 1912, the Presidio Mine, as it was called, produced 450,000 tons of ore, according to the Handbook of Texas.
The biggest boom occurred between 1928 and 1942, when hundreds of people lived alongside the Cibolo Creek and around Shafter. The cemetery on a hill outside of town, which holds the remains of numerous miners, bears testimony to opportunities and dangers of that era.
However, the mine closed in the late 1940s because of fluctuations in the price of silver, a decline in ore quality, flooded tunnels and the shortage of miners during World War II.
An attempt to reopen it the late 1970s was aborted after Hunt brothers of Dallas attempt to corner the world silver market ended with a sudden price crash.
All told, an estimated 33 million ounces of silver had been mined here before Aurcana, a small Canadian company, bought the site in 2008. Aurcana also owns La Negra mine in Queretaro, Mexico, which has an estimated 115 million ounces of recoverable silver.
Aurcana officials believe the 3000-acre site south of Shafter holds at least 24 million ounces of recoverable silver and may yield twice that. If the price of silver holds, the mine is expected to be in business for 10 years or more, employing 150 to 200 people.
Until La Mina Grande reopened earlier this year, Shafter had been ignored by the outside world for decades, existing amid the old mining company headquarters ruins like a quaint roadside curiosity.
Now, relatively speaking, things are hopping.
“Obviously there have been some changes, there are a few more people in town, but for the most part it hasn't changed,” said Larry Swinnea, who has lived in Shafter for 11 years.
“We can hear the mill running at night, but I'm used to it. I hardly notice,” he added.
“We're going to have a museum, gift shop and coffee shop. It will be mostly for our residents, but a lot of tourists also stop there,” said Sandy Bruce, a mine official who lives in Shafter.
“Our president, Lenic Rodriguez, is very clear about taking care of our residents and Shafter,” said Bruce, who has spent recent months mining treasures from items left at the store, some dating back many decades.
One prize discovery was a May 7, 1945, copy of the long-defunct New Orleans Item bearing the banner headline “War is Over.”
Retirees Manny and Mary Jimenez, whom Bruce has befriended, live in surreal quietude on the eastern edge of town. They will welcome the new store, the first in Shafter in many decades.
“I like it. Maybe we'll get to meet more people,” said Mary, 84, whose husband worked briefly at the mine in 1940.
“To me, it don't make no difference. The first time I was too young, now I'm too old,” remarked Manny, 89, of La Mina Grande reopening.
While most folks in Presidio County welcome the mine, already the county's third-largest employer and taxpayer, worries about water issues are growing.
With the water table at about 540 feet below the surface, according to Miller, and the old mine workings going down to below 900 feet, as much as 1,000 acre-feet of water may have to be removed for the deeper ore pockets to be exploited.
“The mine has been a good neighbor. I don't have any complaints, but I have concerns,” said Patt Sims, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Shafter.
“I'm concerned about the water, and I think everyone in Shafter is,” said Sims, who also is a member of the local underground water conservation board.
Poindexter, a Houston businessman who owns the adjacent high-end resort, argues that the deep pumping and potential surface discharges of up to three acre-feet a day, as allowed by permit, must be dealt with now.
“Let's say two years from now, when the mine is highly profitable, a rancher raises his hand and says, ‘By the way, the water is declining in my wells.' The reaction, beyond laughter, would be none,” he said.
Poindexter says the mine brushed off his request to conduct a joint hydrological study to assess the affects of massive water withdrawals.
“We're highly concerned because the mine has done no investigation, not withstanding our attempt to cooperate,” he said.
On its website, the Cibolo Creek Ranch claims to be is the “finest luxury hotel and resort in the Big Bend,” a place where “captains of industry” and “famous beauties” have found “privacy and serenity.”
The resort offers its well-heeled guests everything from a private landing strip to gourmet meals to rafting trips on the Rio Grande. Water wells going dry would do little to enhance the experience.
Miller said the mine intends to store and use most of the water it extracts, instead of discharging it into the desert, as it would be allowed to do. And, he said, it's not the mine's burden to prove its anticipated water withdrawals will not harm others.
“The hydrological studies that would resolve this would cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and by law, it's not the mine's responsibility. The person who is claiming the injury has the duty to prove the damage,” he said.
But Poindexter continues to press the water conservation district to require Rio Grande Mining to get a permit before making any withdrawals of water. So far, the district is gathering information.
“At this point, we're trying to get the mine to tell us what they are doing. As to Mr. Poindexter's concerns, the board really doesn't have a position,” said Jim Mustard, the board president.
At present, he said, there is a moratorium on issuing new well permits while the board's regulations are being revised. Still unresolved, he said, is whether the mine will need a local well permit to pump out the flooded tunnels.
“I think it's pretty clear. If you have a shaft in the ground, and are going to produce water from it, it's a well, so it's subject to the regulation of the Water Conservation District,” he said, adding that the district has not ruled on anything.
Miller said Aurcana's owners believe the district does not have jurisdiction, since other laws take precedence.
“Based on the information I have from the mine, we believe we have all the necessary permitting,” he said.
And, he said, if by chance, a neighbor's well were to go dry after the deep mining operations commence, the mine would move quickly to solve the problem, rather than jeopardize its operations.
“If the mine is wrong, and we were to impact one water well, I think we'd figure out a way to replace that water well, rather than shut down a going concern that has created 200 jobs in Presidio County,” he said.
Poindexter, however, said his attorney has researched the issue, and is convinced that the mine must get a local well permit.
“There is no question the local water board is the proper authority, and there are no exemptions under mining law that would prevail,” he said.
As the La Mina Grande issues become more complicated, about the only thing that appears likely is that the lawyers soon will have their day.