The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office in Telluride, Colo., recently reported the theft of $60,000 worth of cable from the Topaz Mine in western Colorado’s Big Gypsum Valley. But Grand County Sheriff Steve White says the same problem plagues southeastern Utah.
“We’re seeing a major spike in thefts,” he said. “We’ve had several on the railroad where they’ve cut wires. And the last several years there have been thefts off the old missile base in Green River.”
White investigated the most recent incident in Grand County just two weeks ago. He said “quite a large amount” of copper wiring was stolen from railroad property near Westwater.
“We’ve had quite a lot of it recently,” White said. “Most of our stuff has been on the old military base, but the railroad is our big one now.”
Deputy Todd Gordon of the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office said thieves often strip rubber and plastic off the cable and sell the copper to recycling centers.
“Normally, they don’t know what they’re getting,” he said of the buyers.
Most of the thefts San Miguel County authorities investigate are from mining operations, Gordon said.
“We’ve seen it more and more in that [Big Gypsum Valley] region,” he said. “I’ve heard of it happening in San Juan County, Utah, too. This is becoming a pretty common occurrence in the mining industry.”
The theft at Topaz Mine occurred sometime between late December and the first week of March, when a mine employee discovered the loss during a routine environmental check, Gordon said. The mine has been shut down since late 2007.
Gordon added that about 3,000 feet of cable was taken.
“Someone must have been comfortable in a mine,” he said. “We’re talking a huge amount of weight. We’re talking about someone who knew what they were doing.”
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of suspects in the Topaz Mine thefts. Anyone with information about the Topaz Mine theft is encouraged to call Gordon or investigator Norman Squier at 970-728-1911. Information about thefts in Grand County may be reported to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 435-259-8115.