RIO GRANDE COUNTY— The Summitville mining site has long been a part of the story of Rio Grande County and the town of Del Norte. The mine is a history-rich site that sits high in the mountains 18 miles southwest of Del Norte at an elevation of 11,500 feet. The Alamosa River and its tributaries flow from the site through the Rio Grande National Forest. The Terrace Reservoir is located 18 miles downstream from the site. According to www.cumulis.epa.gov, gold mining was taking place at the 1,400-acre Summitville Mine early as the late 1800s.
By 1984, the Summitville Consolidated Mining Corporation, Inc. began open-pit mining for gold, copper and silver. Mining processes, waste disposal practices, and the discharge of large amounts of copper and other metals to Wightman Fork and the Alamosa River contaminated soil, surface water and groundwater with heavy metals. The site was designated as a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1994. According to the Denver Post, the project has required 27 years and millions of dollars to reach its current status. The cleanup, operation and maintenance activities at the site are ongoing.
Rio Grande County will be hosting a tour of the site on Aug. 23 and 24 to highlight the work that is being done. More information on the project and tour will be coming soon.