World famous miners in Fairplay

Freddy Dodge (left) and Todd Hoffman, are giving a thumbs up for a great breakfast at the Brown Burro Cafe in Fairplay. Dodge and Hoffman are part miner and part reality television stars on the Discovery Channel show The Gold Rush. When not working in the Fairplay AU Pit (aka Katuska Pit), they can be seen around Fairplay eating, drinking and taking pictures with both locals and tourists from around the world. June 9, the Gold Rush crew is sponsoring a free meal and fundraising event for South Park residents at the Rocky Top Plaza, which is the plaza by the Prather’s Market. The local’s party begins at 5 p.m. There will also be a beer and wine tent and opportunities to meet the celebrity miners. (Photo courtesy of The Brown Burro Cafe)

The Gold Rush television crew is sponsoring an event for South Park residents in Fairplay on Friday, June 9, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Rocky Top Plaza, at the intersection of Main Street and U.S. Highway 285, which is by Prather’s Market.

There will be a free meal for residents who can provide proof of South Park residence, such as a driver’s license or a utilities bill.

There will also be a beer and wine tent and an opportunity to meet the miners who star in the Gold Rush program. The miners want to meet the local community and many of them will be at the event.

Split Window will be providing live music.

Additionally, there will be fundraising and donation opportunities available. South Park Cheerleaders will have a table and will be raising money to attend a competition in the fall.

Profits from the overall event will go to the Boys and Girls Club, Destination Imagination, and Friends of Fairplay.

What is Gold Rush?

Gold Rush is a reality television show that began airing on Discovery Channel in 2010. The show follows miners who face a multitude of obstacles while mining for gold in Alaska, South America and now Colorado.

In 1859, gold brought prospectors to Fairplay. In 2017, the miners are still looking for gold, but now with their excavation tools, as well as television cameras.

There are approximately 12 miners who are working in the mine as reality television stars. Residents and tourists around town often see the miners, take photos and get autographs.

Gold Rush is consistently the top-rated cable television show, according to “TV by the numbers.”

Fairplay is on the worldwide map now for the Gold Rush because of television, in addition to its famous burro and llama races.

The Gold Rush miners are working in the Fairplay AU Pit, which was called the Katuska Pit, and in the past, was known as the Fairplay Placer and Cincinnati Placer.

High Speed Mining, LLC is the corporation that leases the land that the Gold Rush crew uses on the television show.

Business

“Anybody that comes to Park County and brings jobs into Fairplay is great. Fairplay is now on the map, on an international scale. The show has followers all over the world,” Gabby Lane, mayor of Fairplay said.

“I had a chance to hang out with these guys last year and they are a riot. They are funny and all I did was laugh, in fact I am brokenhearted that I will miss this event, as I will be in Missouri helping my sister,” Lane said.

George Davis, co-owner of the Brown Burro, said, “Business has increased due to the Gold Rush filming. We have the miners and visitors from all over coming to visit and we serve them.”

Curtis, the cook at the Park Bar in Fairplay, also said that they have seen more business in the bar since the Gold Rush crew arrived.

Controversy

Robin Rindsig of Iowa made a complaint about the Gold Rush operation in December 2016 which prompted state regulators from Colorado to investigate.

Rindsig told The Denver Post, “the show appears ‘scripted,’ that his father and grandfather ran mining operations, and that he is trying to keep ‘Gold Rush’ honest.”

Rindsig’s accusation is not the only accusation like this. Former Gold Rush cast member, Jimmy Dorsey, also made public claims that the show gave him lines.

“They knew exactly what they wanted to see out of the program … they actually direct you in these situations,” Dorsey told Oregon Gold at oregongold.net.

Dorsey also claims that producers planned his exit from the show and that it had never been his intention to leave after episode six.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Department of Natural Resources has also looked into the show’s operation.

“We received a notification in December 2016 of a possible violation at the Katuska pit,” Michael Cunningham, environmental protection specialist for Park County of the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, said.

Cunningham added, “It was determined that they were affecting areas outside of their permit.”

Per the CDRMS website, “During the inspection, the division observed, among other things, several settling ponds located beyond the south boundary of the permit area, recently constructed in an area that had been forested.

“Also, located beyond the south boundary, the Division observed that timber had been cleared for equipment storage areas and construction of a new concrete pad. The division estimated that 10.3 acres of land was disturbed, approximately 2.4 acres of which are outside the permit boundary.”

CDRMS ruled that the corrective action was for a conversion application to be filed that included the additional area.

This conversation application was filed March 28, along with the additional fee of $1,725. This fee is in addition to the $21,120 they have already paid for various other fees.

Additionally, High Speed Mining was ordered to apply to convert the existing 110c Reclamation Permit to a 112 Hard Rock Reclamation Permit.

The Division received the 112 Hard Rock Reclamation Permit application March 9. Per the state website, the decision date on these permits is June 26.

Once a permit is filed, the process can take up to 120 days. The public has an opportunity to comment. The deadline for filing objections from the public to this conversion application was May 18.

There have been four objections filed related to this application.

Per Cunningham, the application has been referred to the Mine Land Reclamation Board and is expected to be reviewed by the board during the July meeting.

The objections, as found on the CDRMS website are the following:

Objection from Robert and Jill White

“This company already intentionally mined outside their permitted area.”

The Whites add that the area is zoned “residential” and “this company’s association with a television show has caused it to act hastily and without regard for not only your rules, but the county rules and total disregard for neighbors.”

The Whites also cite concern that this site is close to historic South Park City, an educational center called Beaver Ponds and downtown Fairplay.

Objection from Anne Lukacs

Lukacs objects to the expansion of the mine, writing that this will increase their area from eight acres to 41.4 acres and that this will have a negative impact on the neighboring residential areas. She adds that 28 acres would be on residentially-zoned land.

She also writes, “High Speed Mining, LLC has a history of ‘non-compliance’ and bending and breaking the rules.”

Lukacs is also concerned with the role of Raw TV and adds, “While High Speed Mining may try to separate the television production from mining, they are in fact a part of the operation. The television production provides funding to supplement the mining activities done by their mining operators.

“Raw TV is producing the show and controlling where they shoot. They are, for all intents and purposes, the employer. The Certificate of Insurance lists Raw TV as the responsible entity for the show and all aspects associated with it.”

Objection from Robin Rindsig

Rindsig also objects, writing, “It is an area zoned for residential, not mining.”

He also writes, “The appeal for water related maintenance should be moot until the property is rezoned.”

Objection from M. Jaime Morrow

Morrow writes that the expansion of the mining permit will have a negative impact on the residential area, including the Morrow family, who live downstream of the operation.

Morrow cites concerns about additional sediment that could harm trout in the Platte River, as well as damage to the natural beauty and wildlife of the area.

Additionally, Morrow requests that the permit not be changed to allow hard rock mining.

Park County Land Use Regulation

A letter to High Speed Mining, LLC dated May 12 from CDMRS, regarding the Katuska Pit, states, “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.”

Beaver pond

Rindsig also submitted a complaint that the Gold Rush crew plans to utilize critter control in order to trap beavers and destroy their lodge and dams in the Beaver Environmental Education Center.

“We are doing everything by the book. Regarding the beaver pond, we had permission from the neighbor and did everything straight up,” one of the Gold Rush miners said.

Another response to this objection is that the beavers divert the stream yearly and the county and others maintain it. No beavers ever get hurt, they just build their damns where they always have. The miners do not stop the flow of the water.

Water

There was also a complaint that Gold Rush did not have water rights. High Speed responded to this complaint that they do have 1867 mining rights to the property and they also lease additional water for late year backup. No operations use groundwater for mining.

Response from Gold Rush program and High Speed Mining, LLC

One Gold Rush program miner said that he did not want to be named in an interview because, “someone shot at us yesterday.”

Additional Response

A company spokesman for High Speed Mining, LLC, citing threats of violence towards the Gold Rush crew, shared the following:

“A 112 permit historically can be called a ‘hard rock’ but in the 112 application it states ours is a gold, sand, gravel, road base, rock and boulders (placer mine which is not a hard rock). 112 or 110 are just reclamation permits numbers based on size. These laws were put in at the state level in the 70s. You have to post a bond that reclamation is going to be performed.

“Their hours cited are incorrect. The current permit is 24/7. Gold Rush revised this to accommodate the neighbors to six days a week daylight hours only. Most likely it will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“While all these objections will be heard and addressed none of the ones filed would be reason for the state not to issue and the public comment period is closed. Brandon sand and gravel did a 112 permit the same distance from the Morrows down the road on a brand new operation 20 times the size and there were no complaints in late 2016.

“I think the Morrows are more concerned about the Destiny Mining permit in their backyard. That is on BLM land and well documented. It is hard to fully understand their complaint but looks like the meadow they are referring to is that one. Destiny is also listed on the one page of their complaint.

“They (the Morrows) moved there in 2012 after that mine was already permitted. It is important for a home owner to search what is around them and what permits or claims have been issued previously even if active mining has not started.

“The state required High Speed Mining to change from a 110 to 112, it was not High Speed’s choice.

“High Speed inherited the issues as they bought the permit from Destiny Mining to get them off. They had junk everywhere. People forgot that and the cost to clean it up. Gold Rush did more additional work on cleaning it up.

“High Speed owned the land but Destiny had the permit. The size of operations remains the same for High Speed even if they get the 112. High Speed will just move the 10 acres pit around the property and reclaim the previous. Destiny got cute in their permit and was not including all the previous mined acres tailings and the historic ponds to stay under 10 acres for bonding and the 112. The only way to reclaim the whole property is mining and use the fines produced to reclaim the historic area that has no topsoil.”

More Information

There are over 90 comments on the local’s party post on the Town of Fairplay’s Facebook page. Visit the Town of Fairplay’s Facebook page or come to the event in person.

(Editor’s note – The Flume can confirm that an arrest has been made in regards to taking potshots with a gun at the crew working at the mining site. The story will be covered in a follow-up article next month, after the charges are filed with Park County Courts.)

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