BAKER CITY — An official from a Canadian company gave Baker County commissioners an update Wednesday on a proposal to do exploratory mining on a county-owned section of the dredge tailings in Sumpter Valley.
Erik Tofsrud of Shukrain Investment Inc. in Vancouver was joined by Mark Ferns, a retired state geologist from Baker City. Both are part of Rainier Skyline Excavators Inc. Special Projects.
The group wants to conduct a “bulk test,” which would involve digging a trench about 900 feet long, 300 feet wide and 80 to 100 feet deep, according to the proposal submitted to the county.
Rainier Skyline Excavators would be ready to start the test in March 2020. The process would determine whether it’s financially feasible to do larger-scale gold mining in the tailings.
If the bulk test shows gold concentrations too small to warrant more mining, the group would fill the trench and level the disturbed area.
“We will not leave this area with any cost to the county,” Tofsrud told commissioners. “That has been an understanding with Commissioner (Bill) Harvey since we started talking about this two years ago.”
Commissioners will have to put out a request for proposals in case other companies are also interested in doing testing on county property.
The proposed bulk test has the potential to determine the mining prospects for the tailings, Harvey, the commission chairman, said.
“In one year’s time, we can know whether or not we’re going to move forward,” Harvey said. “And then we would need to do public hearings saying we’ve proven that it’s viable and we’re looking at this as a total project and then this will be the end result.”
The county owns about 900 acres of tailings left by the dredge that operated from 1935 to 1954.
Over the past several years county officials have had multiple discussions with miners who expressed an interest in plying the tailings for gold.
In its proposal Wednesday, Rainier Skyline Excavators wrote that it has researched the dredge’s operation and found that an estimated 40% of the gold was recovered.