By Craig Liukko:
What does this country do for essential everyday minerals, when ideological bureaucrats have closed most mines and declared them “Permanently Closed”? In Colorado, it appears the “solution” is to have thousands of people sitting around idle, smoking pot, because many Colorado legislators and regulators now think the State can be financed for the foreseeable future through sales of cannabis.
Thankfully, Proposition 111 on Colorado’s recent election ballot was struck down. It would have crippled the robust oil and gas industry that makes our comfortable lives in this country the envy of all, by creating thousands of jobs, literally fueling our economy, providing raw materials for plastics and countless other consumer products, and generating billions of dollars in annual government revenues.
The general public is mostly unaware that the DRMS was the Colorado agency responsible for regulating Royal Dutch Shell out of the state after 30 years of highly responsible stewardship and incredible job creation. Shell spent hundreds of millions of dollars successfully developing and testing an extraction method from oil shale – but finally raised its hands in surrender when unrealistic demands by state officials became impossible to meet.
Shell’s in-situ (in-place) process would have caused minimal surface disturbance while making oil economically available from an estimated two trillion barrels of untapped resources in a three-state area. Just that one deposit contains more oil than Saudi Arabia. Much of their equipment is now set up and operating in Jordan in the Middle East, where Shell’s investment may exceed $20 billion dollars. The potential for tens of thousands of high paying jobs in Colorado is gone, thanks to activist bureaucrats.
My personal nearly 40-year involvement in Colorado mining witnessed this invasion of radical environmentalist bureaucrats who would say or do anything to stop mining and oil and gas production that reduces our dependence on foreign natural resources. They refuse to recognize that modern rules, technologies and practices, as well as industry attitudes and ethics, are hugely different from those that prevailed in the past, when they sometimes lead to accidents, mishaps and environmental degradation.
They don’t want mining or drilling done properly and by the book. They don’t want it done at all. And yet they are not about to give up any of the conveniences, transportation, communication, technologies, gadgets or living standards that depend on the metals, minerals and energy that come out of the ground.
These same radicals want to replace free enterprise capitalism (actually, their distorted views of what capitalism is and does) with centrally controlled socialism (and their imaginary world of utopian life happily ever after from that failed system). I’ve been to a number of socialist countries and have nothing but sympathy for their people’s lives in abject poverty, disease, deprivation and misery. How our schools, politicians and news media can teach and laud these destructive ideologies is a mystery to me.
In 2012, my company accepted some outside financing to help develop what appeared to be an incredibly valuable deposit of gold and other metals – one that would have brought tens of millions of dollars in revenues to Colorado state coffers. Over the following months, however, it became apparent that we were involved in a hostile takeover attempt by a sophisticated but crooked New York hedge fund.
As the hedge fund descended into bankruptcy, it hand-picked an equally unscrupulous receiver who took over operations, made false allegations about me and my company after realizing she did not know how to operate a mine – and then called on the Colorado DRMS to investigate us and, in effect, become part of the fund’s and receiver’s takeover operation.
The DRMS issued “cease and desist” orders before gathering relevant facts. It seized private property and buildings. Our high-value assets began disappearing, including valuable and once well-secured core samples that demonstrated the mine’s incredible potential – all under the supposed watch and care of DRMS inspectors and lawyers.
What can only be called a DRMS kangaroo court followed, in which our expert witness was told to sit down and not say another word. Instead of a jury of our peers, the DRMS’ impaneled seven “conservationist jurors,” who passed judgment based on its inspectors’ false reports and testimony – all while feigning transparency and evenhandedness – bureaucratic watchwords that are used to cover their highly deceptive practices.
While we fought this battle in the Colorado Federal Bankruptcy Court, DRMS lawyers refused to hand over subpoenaed documents, offering excuses like “that inspector doesn’t work here anymore.” Requested government emails were lost, unavailable or destroyed, in violation of laws and regulations.
Three years into the sordid affair, the DRMS field office that had handled much of our operation was closed, ending 25 years of operation and leaving its records and personnel unavailable. Inspectors received early retirement packages, while my shareholders, family and I were left gasping for answers and totally uncompensated for our losses.
Remaining DRMS bureaucrats are still assisting a federal agency in disposing of our valuable property, in the hope that it will not be considered for mining ever again. Ironically, the property was previously owned by Union Oil/Molycorp, a company that for decades specialized in rare earth elements. These strategic minerals are found in unique and uncommon settings, like those associated with our deposit. They are essential for defense, aerospace, renewable energy and countless other modern technologies.
As to my company, we did not have the funds or political connections to investigate or prosecute the criminals and bureaucrats who robbed us – with DRMS assistance. The hedge fund fraudsters face multiple counts of criminal fraud in an upcoming trial that will not restore our money, property or rights.
Meanwhile, the DRMS is again walking away unscathed by its glaring incompetence and corruption – with its bureaucrats likely bragging to one another about “mission accomplished” in blocking our mine … while getting nice paychecks, bonuses and pensions in the process.
It appears I have lost that battle. But I am on a new mission now: To highlight the attitudes, ideologies, corruption and outright criminality of too many elitist and self-serving “public servants,” and to restore as many rights to hard-working American individuals as possible.
We need rules to protect environmental values and worker health and safety. But they must be rational and fairly administered – and so that we can meet essential societal and technological needs
Horror stories like ours need to be investigated and brought into the open – and bureaucrats who think they are above the law need to be brought to justice. The arrogance and dominance of our ruling elites explains why President Trump was elected, and why millions of angry “yellow vest” protesters have been railing in the streets of France to block rising energy taxes.
America and American freedom and prosperity were founded on principles of private property rights. Those rights are now under constant assault by increasingly powerful and unaccountable politicians, bureaucrats and activists. If this continues, our nation will cease to exist.
Changing this intolerable, ultimately anti-America situation is the vow I made to my father shortly before he passed away. It’s a vow all Americans should make, if they want to keep this nation a prosperous land of opportunity for citizens and newcomers alike, for this generation and generations to come.
Craig Liukko has owned and operated underground mining, mineral processing and manufacturing businesses for over 40 years. He has traveled to many countries in Central America, the Middle East and Africa, helping them create jobs – safely and ecologically.