BLM mining withdrawal site

At center, highlighted in brown, lies the 230-acre parcel the BLM has designated off-limits for some mining. 

A 230-acre riverfront parcel near Browns Canyon National Monument is now off limits for mining.

The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn the acreage from “locatable mineral” mining, such as gold, silver and gemstones.

The land remains open to “leasable minerals,” including oil, gas, coal and geothermal energy.

For those alarmed at the prospect of oil wells downstream of Browns Canyon, BLM geologist Stephanie Carter said that scenario is unlikely. The reason: petroleum resources don’t exist there.

“Oil, gas and coal are not located in the corridor we did a withdrawal on,” Carter said.

The parcel is located along the Arkansas River at the monument’s southern boundary. The area may have geothermal potential, but BLM spokesman Kyle Sullivan reports energy producers haven’t shown much enthusiasm for resource extraction of any kind.

“We haven’t seen any expressions of interest over the last 30 years, probably even longer than that,” Sullivan said.

Asked why the BLM withdrew mineral mining, but not oil, gas, coal and geothermal, Carter explained it’s a matter of control. The BLM has little authority over mineral extraction covered by the federal 1872 Mining Law, while the bureau is able to better regulate petroleum and geothermal activity.

“Locatable minerals are managed in a completely different fashion than oil, gas and coal,” Carter said, referring to resources covered by the 1872 Mining Law. “When there’s a certain action like this one, the mining law minerals are the ones taken off the table because we have such limited discretion over those processes.”

Essentially, the BLM is withdrawing mining it can’t regulate, while continuing to permit extractive activities within its authority. Gold panning will still be allowed.

The area was originally withdrawn from locatable mineral mining in 1991, an order that expired in 2011. The new public land order replaces the expired document. The BLM’s latest order went into effect March 24, though the decision wasn’t published in the Federal Register until April 6.

Though the land is adjacent to Browns Canyon National Monument, the two issues are unrelated, according to Sullivan.

“This mineral withdrawal was conducted independently of the Browns Canyon National Monument designation and allows the BLM to continue managing the area the same way it has been managed since 1991, when the original withdrawal took effect,” Sullivan said.

The intent of the withdrawal is to “maintain the wilderness characteristics and scenic values of the area, and reserve the area for public recreational use,” Sullivan said.

As for Browns Canyon National Monument, Sullivan said the BLM is “collaborating” with the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife on a joint management plan.

The public process will start with a Federal Register notice, Sullivan said, but a timeline hasn’t been established.

Interested stakeholders will have “several opportunities” to participate in the management plan’s creation, Sullivan said. However, those public meetings have yet to be scheduled.

For further information on the withdrawal, call BLM realty specialist Steve Craddock at 303–239–3707.

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