The New Hope Amethyst Claim and the responsibilities of having a lode claim with BLM (a story of reclamation)
Written and reported by Jennifer Gerring, CCGC President. Printed in the RMFMS Newsletter - June 2015
Amethyst has been a prized gem for centuries. It is the birthstone for Pisces and the month of February, and the gemstone for the 6th anniversary of marriage. The name amethyst derives from the ancient Greek word amethustos, meaning sober. It was said that an amethyst could prevent the bearer from becoming excessively drunk and also instills a sober and serious mind.
The color of amethyst found at the New Hope Amethyst claim, is as diverse and colorful as the members who visit the claim. This claim owned by the Cañon City Geology Club in Fremont County Colorado, is a 21 acre lode claim. The terrain varies with an average elevation of 6500 feet.
Claim field trips are a favorite of members from CCGC as well as other clubs. Members and other invited clubs’ members can visit the claim with an organized field trip by the Cañon City Geology Club. At the NHAC, people of all ages, young and old, have the opportunity to see first-hand what a mineral vein looks like. They learn how minerals form, and experience the joy of discovering earth's treasures.
Rockhounds can take a leisurely stroll across the claim to find various rocks and minerals, or walk down the gently sloping ephemeral Amethyst Creek and find pieces of amethyst that have washed out from the vein. As well, easy hand digging has continued to produce small gemmy points from these quartz veins. Others can use rock hammers and chisels to gently loosen amethyst from other locations on the claim.
New Hope amethyst gems are found in volcanic dikes formed 565 million years ago, late Precambrian or early Cambrian. The color is a violet/purple variety of quartz (SiO2 or silicon dioxide) ranging from a rich royal purple to a light pinkish violet, slightly translucent. A unique chevron pattern of smoky quartz forms to meet the purple amethyst. The purple color of amethyst has been attributed to iron and sometimes manganese.
Other minerals that can be found on the claim are: smoky and white quartz, unakite (a stone with quartz, feldspar and epidote), clear calcite crystals, a very tiny amount of citrine, lamproite, carbonatite, and possibly magnetite.
In the late 1800’s, while looking for gold, silver and copper in Fremont County, the amethyst vein was originally discovered by early explorers. Around 1906, J. P. Endicott began exploring for the source of the amethyst found in this area and after digging several pits and prospects, located the heavy amethyst impregnated zone of the New Hope “vein” and sank a shaft that reached some forty feet in depth. By 1960, various other prospects, pits and trenches were dug.
In the early 1970’s, the Canon City Geology Club placed a claim on the New Hope Amethyst site. The club has maintained and enjoyed the claim as one of its’ special outings for the past 40 years.
After years of usage, CCGC received a request for a site inspection from the regional Bureau of Land Management office. On August 6, 2013, a field representative walked the claim with then CCGC president, Jim Meacham, using GPS and camera to document current disturbance and claim markers. Notes were made indicating the visible amethyst veins and locations being worked. As well they noted potential future areas of disturbance and the possibility of erosion and runoff. Other areas of erosion near the acre parking area were discussed.
The historic shaft was measured and reported, indicating that it is “grandfathered in” and no reclamation required by the club. Even though, the CCGC has future plans to place fencing and protective grates on and around the old shaft.
After inspection, the BLM determined the surface disturbance on the New Hope claim should be classified as “greater than casual use”. This placed the claimant (CCGC) under Notice Level Operations and required the submission of a Notice of Intent (NOI). This information is used to establish financial responsibility for surface disturbance on public lands. The BLM has different levels of surface disturbance: CASUAL USE, NOTICE level and PLAN OF OPERATION level. Further description of these can be found on the BLM website.
The BLM halted all visits to the NHAC until the Notice Of Intent, NOI, (43 CFR 3809 Exploration Notice Form) was filed, and bond was submitted. CCGC canceled its scheduled field trips for 2014, and stopped all activities that season to the claim. The NOI is an 11-page document that requires submission of description and scope of operations (i.e., proposed action), maps and drawings of operations, plan of reclamation and cost estimates.
A financial guarantee or bond, is required by the BLM, which must cover the estimated cost to reclaim the operations according to the reclamation plan. The amount is established by the BLM after reviewing the NOI’s submitted reclamation cost estimates. Our bond was $3239.00 based on our estimated reclamation expenses of $700. This cost included materials only. Members volunteered labor and equipment.
The required bond amount along with the Bond Form needed to be submitted to BLM prior to initiating operations. This financial guarantee is held in escrow by the BLM until the end of exploration operations, and all reclamation is adequately completed according to the plan. Or, in other words, the bond will be held in escrow to cover BLM's expenses in the event that CCGC doesn't follow through on the commitment to do satisfactory reclamation. And, the bond will be held as long as the claimant wishes to conduct exploration/trenching activities.
Exploration activities are defined by the BLM as: digging trenches and exploring for the minerals on the claim causing more trenching and surface disturbance. As long as this type of activity occurs, the BLM holds the bond money in a non-interest bearing account. To clarify, the claim must be completely relinquished by the club and final reclamation completed. Nonetheless, even this action doesn’t guarantee getting you bond monies back.
According to the BLM, reclamation is the rehabilitation of mined land in order to mitigate the adverse environmental effects of mining. Components of reclamation for CCGC included: erosion control, partial filling of trenches, fence erection, and broadcast seeding.
The unexpected and compulsory bond and reclamation, required CCGC to search for funds to pay the bond and buy materials for reclamation.
Researching avenues to get bond money, we looked into bonding and lending agencies, however because of the amount and purpose, we weren’t approved for funds and needed to present a cash bond. So, members, friends and the Lake George Mineral Club rallied together to contribute donations or interest free loans for the bond. In addition, Cindy Smith applied for and received a grant from Southern Colorado Community Foundation (SCCF) to buy the materials needed for reclamation. Other funding programs were reviewed but did not give grants for bonds or reclamation.
Prior to stepping back on the claim and starting the actual physical work, the Canon City Geology Club had to post the bond by September 13, 2014.
With the bond submitted, reclamation could commence as well as concurrent exploration. Since reseeding was required, we meet with Rick Romano, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, at the claim for advise on the proper native seed mix to purchase and sow. He created a report with the list and percentage of the seed mix and how to plant it.
For the next three months, 24 able bodied members from CCGC, volunteered and began reclamation by partially filling in trenches with local and purchased cobbles and dirt. Then they covered the area with landscape fabric and river rock for erosion control and stability. HDX (orange nylon) fencing was placed around the 40' deep shaft and held in place with T-posts in buckets of cement. Warning signs were placed in appropriate locations. We then rented an aerator for the parking area to help the broadcasted seed take hold. Next volunteers (early Dec) spread compost and sawdust for germination, and then reseeding the parking area with the approved native grass mix. Debris was removed and the drive-in access on a rough dirt road to the claim was bladed and smoothed.
According to the BLM’s NOI we have two years to reclaim, with an extension if needed. CCGC started the reclamation in October 2014, and had the seed in the ground in December, before the first winter snow. The BLM does plan to come out for another inspection within two years and if reclamation is not ongoing (reclaim as you go) the bond monies may be increased.
Excited to show off the new look of the NHAC, CCGC scheduled field trips for members on April 25, 26, and in the Fall 2015. CCGC also invited the Lake George Mineral Club members to visit in May, and Colorado Springs Mineral and Gem Society in September.
CCGC will hold a Fund Raiser Auction in September 2015 to assist with payback of the loans that helped pay the bond money. Donations of really exciting items are coming in. Check out our website (canoncitygeologyclub.com) for pictures and descriptions of these items. We want to thank all those involved with helping our club with this project. Your kindness and unexpected generosity is greatly appreciated, so we all can enjoy field trips at the New Hope Amethyst Claim.
Click on each picture to enlarge.