December 20, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 51

Mud Bay Road dig scratched

A Skagway prospector who proposed to dig two 500-foot trenches near Mount Riley trail said this week he’s no longer pursuing the dig.

“I have no interest right now. I have left it right there and am on to the next project. I hope the best for your economy,” Eric Hosford said in a phone interview Monday.

Hosford originally staked nine claims on Riley’s roadside flank, but seven of those were found to be granted in error by the state, said David Wilfong, environmental engineer for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Two were on federal Bureau of Land Management land, requiring a federal process for staking, and five were within Chilkat State Park, where mining of any type is prohibited, Wilfong said.

“Two of Mr. Hosford’s claims remain valid, and may be explored and/or mined on,” Wilfong wrote in an email.

Hosford told the planning commission Oct. 11 that he wasn’t interested in mining at Riley, only to dig a trench parallel to Mud Bay Road to learn the direction of a mineral vein there that would shed light on another prospect “miles and miles away.”

“That’s kind of a pivot point there,” he said. “There (are) valuable resources there, but that’s not what I’m after. I’m not intending to put a gold mine in your vicinity or to sell it to any bigger company.”

Hosford’s proposed trenches were on BLM land and on a split estate in a state Department of Transportation right-of-way, Wilfong said. On a split estate, surface and subsurface estates are held by different entities.

“The Department of Natural Resources cannot authorize work to be done on federal land, and any work in a right-of-way requires the DOT’s authorization,” he said.

Wilfong told the planning commission that working in the road right-of-way posed considerable obstacles, including multiple permits. “It sounds like a long shot to work in the right-of-way.”

Wilfong said if Hosford wishes to do work on his remaining two claims outside of the DOT right-of-way, he may reapply to DNR to do his exploration. Those two claims also lie on a split estate; the Haines Borough owns the surface and the State of Alaska owns the subsurface mineral rights.

To work on the claims, Hosford would have to work out a surface use agreement with the borough to reclaim the property, and bond for any damage that he may do to the surface estate, which might amount to replanting trees, Wilfong said.

“At this time, whether or not Mr. Hosford chooses to continue with his plans is up to him,” Wilfong said.

At the Oct. 11 meeting, planning commission chair Rob Goldberg pointed out that the borough’s comprehensive plan designates the future of land there as rural and recreational, but Wilfong said he believed mining rights would trump local zoning.

Resident Ron Jackson said the borough could have an advisory role in the permitting process, recommending a way to go about development.

Hosford also said at the commission meeting he was not interested in pursuing work on the two remaining claims. “Pretty much I’m out of money and the whole thing’s pretty much scrapped at this point.”