The pits are now owned by CML Metals, a new company based out of Hurricane. CML (named for the Comstock/Mountain Lion mine) is primarily owned by Luxor Capital Partners, LP, a New York-based company, but its president and CEO is Dale Gilbert, also of Gilbert Development.
Gilbert Development was contracted to do all the mining from 1985 to 1996, when the facility was owned by U.S. Steel and Geneva Steel. After nearly 15 years, the company will be mining it again.
Gilbert said he feels very positive about the future of the mining operations. He and others at Gilbert Development are very knowledgeable and experienced with the mines, and in addition to their work in the ’80s and ’90s they were heavily involved in getting it all set up with the previous owner, Palladon Ventures.
There have been a lot of upgrades to the mine and everything has been made current to the newest Mine Safety Health Administration regulations, Gilbert said. A lot of pre-stripping has been done in the Comstock pit to expose the ore.
Since March 2009, when operations ceased and the equipment was pulled from the mines, 114 railcars have been sitting on the property full of iron ore. Gilbert said they are not the type of cars needed to ship the ore and they began unloading them last week. They expect to be loading the correct cars and shipping within the next few weeks.
In addition to the ore that was in the railcars there is more ore waiting to be loaded. Total, there is about 160,000 tons of ore stockpiled and ready to ship, Gilbert said. They expect to send two or three trains a week out of the facility through the end of the year.
In addition to shipping the ore that is already stockpiled, mining operations are expected to begin within the next couple months, once all the equipment is back in place. All necessary equipment is in Gilbert Development’s control and none needs to be purchased.
The contracts are all in place for the ore to be taken to the Port of Richmond, near the San Francisco Bay area in California. From there it will be shipped to China, Gilbert said.
The company’s ore will be sent overseas for now, and for the next couple years at least, but they plan to complete construction of a concentrate plant in about two years. Engineering work is currently underway for the plant.
A concentrate plant will convert the mid- to low-grade iron ore to a high grade ore. Having this capability will give the operation more security and open up more markets for the ore, Gilbert said.
At least until then, shipping it to China makes sense. Though it may seem like a very long distance to send it, the market in China is currently very strong and that makes it cost effective.
“We’re in a world market that we’re dealing with now,” he said.
The ore being shipped is referred to as “run of mine” ore. The ore mined from the pit can range drastically in grade. The materials of an acceptable grade are crushed down and blended together for shipment. They are shipped in this raw, blended state.
Anything that is too low quality is set aside to be used when the concentrate plant is built.
Gilbert said the work at the mines may seem to the public to move slowly, but he wants to make sure things are done right and a long-term operation is built. Initially they will be doing very little hiring, and are hoping to start by bringing back some of the local people who were laid off. It is important to them to “do right by the community,” he said.
However, they have some ambitious plans for the future and several options they are looking at, even beyond the concentrate plant, he said. He could not disclose specifics at this time, though.
CML is an aggressive company that is very invested in the mines and is dedicated to making them successful, Gilbert said.
“We are not in this halfway,” he said.
He said he feels confident with Luxor as CML’s primary owner.
“We certainly have a strong owner with Luxor,” he said.
They have a great attitude about moving the project forward, he added.