OURAY COUNTY: Fortune Minerals leads CR 26A road work
By Sheridan Block
County Road 26A remains closed between Liberty Mine and the top of Governor Basin this week as mine operator Fortune Minerals leads road improvement efforts near the Revenue mine.
Last week, the Ouray County Sheriff’s Department issued a notification stating that CR 26A would be closed from Monday, Aug. 12, through Friday, Aug. 29. The notification did not provide any other details.
Fortune’s Environmental Relationships Manager Dianna Stoopnikoff told the Plaindealer that the company initiated road work in order to haul in larger and heavier mining equipment to the mine site. Much of the work will focus on re-surfacing the road, though the company will also widen some sections.
Road closure is necessary for safety, as the road has many switchbacks and rockfall is possible.
“We knew this had to happen. It’s the time to get this done,” said Stoopnikoff.
The need for boring equipment at the mine is what instigated the road work. The equipment will help create ventilation shafts and improve the air quality in underground tunnels. Stoopnikoff said there are several types of boring machines that would help with this project, but she is not yet sure which the operators will use.
A boring machine is essentially a drill. In typical underground mining, a raise borer is used to excavate a hole between two levels of a mine without the use of explosives. Raise borers are set up on the surface and drill a small-diameter hole (also called a “pilot hole”) into the mine tunnel. Once the drill has broken into the opening of the tunnel, a reamer is used to smooth the walls. A boxhole borer is a variant of a raise borer that drills a pilot hole from the lower level to the surface. Boxhole borers are typically used when there is not enough space on the higher of the two levels to be connected.
Stoopnikoff said that the company was aware of the road work that needed to be done before purchasing the mine and Fortune has already budgeted for those expenses. Because the company is leading the improvements, there is no cost to the county for the project, she said.
Along with creating a more stable path to transport equipment, improvements to CR 26A will benefit other users of the road.
“If you’ve ever been up that road, it’s really scary,” said Stoopnikoff, noting the rough surface and narrow switchbacks. “(With road improvements) it will be much safer and nicer and more passable for the tourist traffic as well.”
While many Jeep tour companies frequent the area, most will remain unaffected by the closure.
Owner and operator of Alpine Scenic Tours Michael Lane offers tours up to Governor Basin. With the road being closed, he said he’s been taking tourists to Silver Basin as an alternative, but the improvements have had no effect on his business at all.
“I’ve got other places I can go, it’s no big deal,” he said. “If I see them working on the road, I go elsewhere.”
Lane’s only complaint with the road work is that rocks have been pushed from the roads and trample wildflowers in the area.
“I wish they’d put the rocks somewhere else,” he said, adding that he’d like the miners to pay more attention to preserving the natural beauty of the environment.
CR 26A will remain closed until Aug. 29. The road is closed Mondays through Fridays but will remain open on the weekends.