Gold Rush miner Todd Hoffman and his crew continue to have legal issues with their Fairplay, Colorado gold mine, and the latest has resulted in a complete shut down of all mining operations courtesy of a cease and desist mandate from Park County!
The cease and desist letter was issued on June 8 and received by Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety on June 12. From the letter:
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, PURSUANT TO Sections 30-28-124 and 30-28-124.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, as well as the pertinent provisions of the Park County Land Use Regulations, that you are in violation of the Park County Land Use Regulations, as described below.
Section 5-304 — You are using, or allowing to be used, your property, which is zoned Residential, for mining and commercial purposes. Mining and commercial uses are not permitted in the Residential zone district.
Order: Based on the foregoing, you are hereby ordered to cease and desist all mining and commercial activities on the subject parcel immediately, except activities required to ensure safe closure, which shall be completed by June 19, 2017.
Violation of the above-stated order will subject you to civil and criminal penalties.
Here is the actual cease and desist letter — you can see at the bottom that a copy was hand delivered to Freddy Dodge. (High Speed Aggregate — aka High Speed Mining — is the claim owner.)
As it mentions in the letter, the problem is that the property that the Hoffmans are mining on may actually be zoned Residential. The zoning issue was brought up in a complaint filed on May 8. “All the mining at Katuska has been illegal since at least 2011,” reads the complaint. “It is in an area zoned for residential use, not mining.” There is a link provided from a 2011 Park County filing to back up the claim. (I couldn’t get the link to work.)
It seems the complaint had merit, as evidenced by the cease and desist letter.
Although their Fairplay operation has been shut down, according to locals who have been posting on the “Concerned Homeowners of Park County” Facebook page, the Hoffman crew is still operating at their second mining location at Sacramento Creek.
Speaking of the “Concerned Homeowners of Park County,” the Hoffmans recently held an event in the hopes of bettering their relationship with the locals. The cast members were in attendance at a cookout on June 9 to meet and greet fans — including signing autographs and even panning for gold. In addition to the free food (for residents), there was also a beer and wine tent and live music.
Todd posted about the event and says there were 1,500 folks in attendance. An excerpt from Todd’s Facebook post soon after:
1500 people joined us for community. I liked FairPlay before and now I love FairPlay. I loved talking to the kids, taking pictures and hearing about the rich mining history of FairPlay. It was cool meeting the men and women of this area that get up everyday and go bust ass and keep the place running. I’m becoming a resident of Park County because my family loves living here.
There is one sour old lady that the camera crew wouldn’t hire started saying disparaging things about me and she’s loud and full of hatred. She will be dealt with soon. In everything you do there will be hate. Be a light, stand up and be counted, don’t hate things you don’t understand. Do good to the people around you and your family. Don’t cower to anyone if your doing what the Lord wants you to do.
One of the complaints was filed by a professional cinematographer that lives near Fairplay, so I am guessing that is who Todd is referring to? I have to say that the statement “She will be dealt with soon.” sounds a bit frightening!
In case you missed it, Todd Hoffman and his crew ran into some legal issues last season as well after it was determined that they cleared land for mine use that was beyond the boundary of their permit. They were fined a large amount, but given the option to file for a different kind of permit to lessen the fine. As part of applying for their new permit (a Hard Rock Reclamation Permit), the Hoffmans have proposed expanding their permitted mining area at Fairplay from 8 acres to 41.4 acres — a huge increase!
The proposed expansion has been met with resistance and a series of complications — all of which can be researched online. Here is a rough timeline of the most recent events surrounding the Fairplay mine, starting in early March:
A formal complaint is filed against High Speed Mining pointing out that an episode of Gold Rush showed the crew using explosives to blast boulders, but the use of explosives is not included in their permit. In addition, the crew is seen placing a pump in the Middle Fork of the South Platte river to supply water to their holding pond, but their permit only allows for “4 CFS of water from the Platte City Mining Ditch.”
High Speed Mining applies to increase the boundaries of their permitted mining operations from 8 acres to 41.4 acres.
High Speed Mining responds to the March 6 complaint: “High Speed Mining, LLC is unware [sic] of explosives being used on site for mining purposes. It is the intent of High Speed Mining to never use or allow the use of explosives on its properties.” They also insist that they have the proper water rights for all water used on the mining site.
Complaint alleges that Todd’s crew have continued mining activities outside of the boundary of the permitted area. The complaint includes numerous photographs of equipment outside of the 8 acres included in High Speed Mining’s permit.
High Speed Mining requests permission to use water ponds outside of their permitted boundary arguing that they need to be used “in order to maintain water flows to downstream users and the free-water to the Platte River.” The ponds would be included in the boundaries of the proposed 41.4 acre expansion as part of the 112 Hard Rock Reclamation Permit application.
High Speed Mining responds to the April 22 complaint and states that the equipment in the photographs was actually television production equipment and not mining equipment, and was thus not subject to the restrictions in the mining permit.
High Speed Mining’s request for water usage outside of their permitted zone is denied:
The Division has received your request to utilize the ponds which are located outside of the current permit boundary of the Fairplay Au Pit, File No. M-1991-037. The ponds and adjacent areas were the subject of an Enforcement Hearing at the January 25, 2017 Mined Land Reclamation Board (Board) Hearing. The Board found High Speed Mining, LLC in violation of section 34-32.5-109(1), C.R.S. for engaging in a mining operation without first obtaining a reclamation permit. The Board Ordered High Speed Mining to submit an application to convert the existing 110c Reclamation Permit to a 112 Hard Rock Reclamation Permit. The Division received the 112 Hard Rock Reclamation Permit application on March 9, 2017. The application is currently under review and the decision date is June 26, 2017.
The Division cannot authorize High Speed Mining to utilize areas outside of the current permit boundary, until such time as those affected lands are incorporated into the 112 Hard Rock permit boundary and reclamation of the those affected lands is bonded for. Pursuant to Rule 1.4.11 any person who can demonstrate that they are directly and adversely affected or aggrieved by an action of the Office and whose interests are entitled to legal protection under the Act may petition for a hearing before the Board.
High Speed Mining appeals the water use decision.
Complaint filed alleging that the Katuska mine site is actually zoned for residential use and any other issues are moot until it is rezoned.
Another formal complaint filed, but without any new specific issues. It merely highlights High Speed Mining’s previous issues and the proximity of the Katuska mining site to residential areas.
Notice of non-compliance issued to High Speed Mining:
On April 19, 2017, the Division received notice from the Park County Planning Department that the Katuska Pit; File No. M-1991-037 was in violation of Park County Land Use Regulations. Pursuant to C.R.S. 34-32.5-115(4) and the conditions of the Performance Warranty, High Speed Mining, LLC must remain in compliance with laws or regulations of the state, including but not limited to all federal, state, and local permits, licenses, and approvals, as applicable to the specific operation.
The failure to maintain compliance with Park County zoning regulations has been cited as a problem. The Division will require High Speed Mining, LLC to demonstrate compliance with Park County Planning Department within 60 days of the date of this letter.
High Speed Mining is notified that there will be a hearing to address the water use issue on either May 24 or 25.
Formal objection to High Speed Mining’s application for a 112 permit (including the expanded acreage) is filed by a resident. The complaint states that the proposed 41.4 acres to be included in the new permit encompasses 28 acres of residential zoned land.
Park County Planning informs High Speed Mining that their rezoning application would be included on the June 13 Planning Commission agenda and presumably the June 25 Board of County Commissioners agenda. “If the application is approved, mining and mining related activities on those portions of the lots will be permitted subject to applicable permitting and review. If the application is denied, mining and mining related activities will have to cease on those portions of the lots in order to avoid a code enforcement action.”
A formal inspection of the permitted 8 acre mining area and the proposed 33.4 acre expansion is conducted. The inspector found no violations and determined that the equipment located on the property outside of the 8 acres permitted for mining belonged to television production crews and was not regulated by the Division. The findings of the inspection were posted on June 9.
A Fairplay resident files a complaint opposing the proposed expansion of mining operations by High Speed Mining and asks that they not be granted permission to operate seven days a week. From the complaint: “High Speed Mining has already infringed upon 2.5 acres outside of their permitted 8. Allowing this company a 500% increase is not a fine but a reward for illegal practices…I fear that these changes would further embolden the flagrant disregard for the law.”
The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety issues a preliminary adequacy review to High Speed Mining in regards to their Hard Rock Regular 112 Reclamation Permit Conversion Application. It includes a LOOOOONG list of requirements, which is mostly just questions about specifics of the proposed mining expansion as well as alterations that needed to be made to mining maps, etc. The application will be considered on June 26.
CDRMS informs High Speed Mining that their request to route water has been denied because “the areas being proposed for use…are located outside of the currently approved 8 acre permit boundary.” They would be included in the proposed expansion boundary, but until that is approved, those areas are not to be used.
A formal complaint is filed with photos allegedly showing “a large piece of mining equipment located within the unpermitted area beyond the 8 acre permitted site.” The photos were reportedly taken on May 23.
Formal complaint filed with photos allegedly taken on June 7 showing “discharge of water from mining ditch pond OUTSIDE OF PERMIT BOUNDARY being used to fill ILLEGAL lined pond situated on residential zone land.”
Park County Development Services issues a cease and desist order against High Speed Mining because they “are using, or allowing to be used, your property, which is zoned Residential, for mining and commercial purposes. Mining and commercial uses are not permitted in the Residential zone district.” The order mandated that all mining activity cease immediately, but did allow for “activities required to ensure safe closure, which shall be completed by June 19.2017.”