Mining company backtracks after lawsuit threat
Gunnison County is preparing a lawsuit to defend its right to regulate large-scale projects in the county, after it received a letter from Kobex Resources LTD indicating Kobex would not comply with the county permitting process.
Gunnison County attorney David Baumgarten told the county commissioners during their regular meeting on Tuesday, November 6 that his office would continue to prepare the suit despite a subsequent letter from Kobex that essentially withdrew the statement. Last month, Gunnison County commissioners began the process of updating the county’s "regulations for special development projects," formerly known as Gunnison County’s 1041 regulations. The regulations are reserved for developments of a large size and scope, like the proposed Lucky Jack mine, which Kobex and its partner, Wyoming-based U.S. Energy, are proposing. The special review allows county officials to determine whether large proposed developments would create undue impacts on the surrounding environment and local communities. The regulations address everything from wildlife and air quality values to socio-economic issues like tourism, housing and transportation. Earlier, Gunnison County officials notified Kobex/U.S. Energy that three separate permits would be required before their proposed construction activity commenced. In response, Kobex chief operating officer Maurice Tagami wrote in a letter dated October 19 that the requisite permit applications furnished by the county would not be necessary because the corporation concluded that such permits were not required. Moreover, Tagami stated that he did not believe the proposed activities relating to the Lucky Jack molybdenum mine were covered by the state-imposed moratorium that county officials say is in effect until updated county regulations for special development projects are complete. In response, Baumgarten told county commissioners on November 6, his office is in the process of preparing a suit to seek a declaratory judgment on the issue. "I want to let you know in no uncertain terms that when communication comes across our desk that looks like that October 19 letter, our staff is going to act on it immediately," he said. Baumgarten told commissioners that while a corporation could challenge such permit requirements, Colorado case law had recently reiterated the authority of a local jurisdiction to enforce county regulations. Baumgarten went on to inform the county commissioners that the county had received a follow-up letter from a Kobex attorney stating the corporation intended to comply with county regulations and permitting. However, Baumgarten said, his office would continue to draft the suit in case the company wasn’t true to its word. "In case something happens, I don’t want to wait a month," he said. County commission chairman Hap Channell acknowledged the county staff for their diligence on the issue. "I want to thank staff for a quick response and a clear response," Channell said.