Paonia resident Bill Bear was recently honored as the 2018 recipient of the Jim Pendleton Award. Bear received the award at the SME (Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration) Annual Conference & Expo, held Feb. 24-27, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. The event was attended by more than 6,000 industry professionals from around the world.
"When it was first announced I was a bit surprised," said Bear, who was familiar with the award and knew the individual for whom it honors, Dr. James Pendleton.
Presented by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Mined Land Reclamation Board, the Pendleton award honors outstanding individuals or organizations for their significant contributions to the reclamation of mined lands in Colorado. Pendleton, a principal scientist with the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, was an engineering geologist, mentor and trainer. He provided valuable guidance to the division's programs in geotechnical engineering, mountain scar reclamation, mine subsidence and resolution of issues at controversial mining operations.
In the long and storied history of Colorado coal mining, Bear is one of the few names associated with coal mining in the North Fork of the Gunnison River Valley. A third-generation North Fork Valley coal miner, Bill Bear has been involved in mining operations in Colorado for the past 48 years, all of it centered in the North Fork Valley.
Bear worked his way through the ranks, from laborer to mine management. Throughout his career, he has played a prominent role in the initial development of five of six North Fork mines, including the initial reclamation of the Bowie No. 1 Mine, and the opening, operation and ongoing reclamation of Bowie No. 2 Mine. He was also involved in the initial and on-going reclamation operations of three coal mines.
In addition, Bear actively participated in, and was a founding member of the North Fork Coal Working Group, which in the 1990s brought mining operations, local environmental organizations, governmental representatives and concerned citizens together to address the impacts of coal mining on the valley. Initially there was substantial opposition to new or amended federal coal leases being proposed at a number of North Fork area mines. But through collaborative efforts of all participants, agreements were reached that allowed the leasing process to proceed. A major outcome of the group was raising money necessary to install gates and lights at many of the rail crossings between the communities of Paonia and Delta.
Bear retired from Bowie Resources, LLC, and the Bowie No. 2 Mine in 2018 and is currently serving a two-year term on the Town of Paonia Board of Trustees.
Senior Environmental Protection Specialist Jason Musick presented the award to Bear. "Any interaction that I had with Bill concerning any of the division's coal permits or inspections of operations or reclamation activities was always professional, non-contentious and collaborative," said Musick in a press release. "Bill was never a person who would argue the merits of the division's rules or requirements of the act."