CREEDE—Over 100 biologists, geologists and mining experts gathered in the Creede Community Center on Thursday, May 3 for the Eighth Annual San Juan Mining Conference. Those who attended came to speak on behalf of their rural Colorado communities that deal with the repercussions of past mining operations and how the communities can survive and remain resilient during boom and bust periods.
The conference started off with a tour of the Creede Underground Mining Museum the previous night with open registration and networking between participants hosted by Anthony Poponi who previously served as the director of Coal Creek Watershed Coalition out of Crested Butte. Those who attended, also met with several companies who showcased innovative methods to aid in reclamation projects like permanent erosion control, water and site testing, ecological restoration and many more.
In 2017 the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee (WCRC) and the Lower Willow Creek Reclamation Company (LWCRC) combined to form the Headwaters Alliance, a 501(C)(3) that works with several local organizations to continue the work of reclamation in the Creede area. The conference was hosted by both the WCRC and the Headwater Alliance in order to bring people together to discuss some of the challenges they face as a community built off of mines that are no longer being used and house a myriad of potential dangers to the environment and communities nearby.
Executive Director of the Headwaters Alliance Guinevere Nelson Freer spoke to the crowd as the opening speaker and talked about how communities like Creede need to gain financial security to deal with potential disasters and remain resilient during a catastrophic event should it occur. “We need to start thinking about who we want to bring to the table to have these conversations and begin to work on community resiliency,” said Nelson-Freer.
The rest of the day was full of speakers from different communities from around the world, as well as some from close to home. Keynote speakers talked about projects happening in places like the Ouray Silver Mine and how geoscience is being used to monitor water quality, treatment, remediation and cost estimates on projects.
Conversations and presentations included the next generation of reclamation utilizing current day technological advancements and closure standards for mines around the world. Presentations focused on what could be changed or implemented to reduce the negative effects mines have on communities and what the benefits of mining are if done correctly and safely.
Luke Danielson, president of Sustainable Development Strategies Group spoke about how mining could be beneficial to communities as long as the right type of products are being harvested and done is a way that is safe for communities and those working in the mines. “We need to maximize the use of mining to work for human welfare, not against it,” said Danielson.
The conference continued on the following day with a tour of two local mining sites where participants were asked to bring innovative and even challenging ideas to the table to discuss how certain projects in the Creede area are working or not and how they could be improved.
A huge thank you goes out to the Ladies Aid Society of Creede, the Creede Underground Mining Museum and community center for helping to provide for the conference and attendees.