Monday, October 14, 2019

New Red Lady Coalition takes first public steps this week

Asks municipalities and others to sign onto new initiative 

Opponents of the Lucky Jack mine are ramping up their efforts to stop the proposed large-scale molybdenum mine on Mt. Emmons just north of Crested Butte, and they’re looking for allies throughout the Gunnison Valley.


On the evening of Tuesday, November 6, representatives of the newly formed Red Lady Coalition appeared before the Gunnison City Council to ask members to sign a position paper that will request the U.S. Forest Service to evaluate the comprehensive impacts of the mine under a full-build-out scenario. The position paper was generated in response to the anticipated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis. A NEPA analysis is expected from the Forest Service when the mining company applies for the permits necessary to commence mineral extraction activity. Because the planned mining activity will take place primarily on Forest Service land, the Forest Service is the federal agency that will conduct the most extensive environmental impact analysis of the proposed mining operations. A NEPA analysis is usually required whenever a project of large scope and size with extensive impacts is proposed to take place on public lands. During the work session on Tuesday night, Red Lady Coalition member John Norton said the mine is expected to apply for permission to mine only the richest part of the molybdenum ore deposit. However, Norton said, the actual impacts of the mine could ultimately be far greater than initially forecast if the operation can profit from mining the surrounding lesser-grade ore. "We have a strong reason to believe the mine could be ten times larger than what is being proposed," Norton said. Gunnison city councilman Bill Nesbitt wondered if the Red Lady Coalition was concerned with only the upper end of the valley. "Would you take the same position if Homestead (mine) wanted to reopen?" he asked. Red Lady Coalition member and High Country Citizens’ Alliance (HCCA) mineral resource director Bob Salter said the coalition was primarily focused on the mine being proposed by U.S. Energy and Kobex Resources Ltd. Norton stressed that the effects from the mine would be valley-wide. "I think anyone around the Gunnison River has got to feel this way," he said. "This is not just an upper-valley issue." City Council member Jonathon Houck wondered whether the mine would have to restart the permitting process if it was granted permission for a smaller operation and then wished to expand. "Is it an addendum to the initial (permit), or do they start back through the whole permitting process again?" Houck asked. Salter said that was the reason the coalition was asking the Gunnison City Council to support the position that any environmental impact analysis must address full-build-out of mine operations. "Typically once they’re permitted, the incremental expansions are done under a much lessened analysis," Salter said. Gunnison mayor Stu Ferguson said the council already had concerns about water quality, air quality and truck traffic impacts from the proposed mine. continued on page 16 continued from page 15 He asked whether council members felt they should support the coalition’s efforts, or weigh in on their own. City Council member Ellen Harriman said she thought the coalition’s position had merit. "I think we should sign on," she said. "I don’t think there is a whole lot of reason to discuss it much further," she added. But Ferguson wondered if the council couldn’t make a stronger statement by signing on to the position paper and generating comments on its own. Norton said the idea of the council signing on to the position paper and also furnishing concerns of its own felt good to him. "It would be nice to have a lot of solid support," he said. Gunnison city manager Ken Coleman added that the mine was likely to add socio-economic impacts to local communities—like pressure on housing and infrastructure. Ferguson said at a minimum, the coalition could expect the council to support the coalition’s points in a separate letter, and City Council might decide to sign onto the coalition’s effort as well. "We’ve at least reached consensus on our own letter," he said. Ferguson ended the discussion after agreeing that the council would take up the issue again at a subsequent regular meeting. Salter said after the meeting that the intention of the coalition is to get as many local entities as possible to sign on to the position paper, including the two other valley municipalities—Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. He also said he wished to sign on many homeowners associations. Salter said he was especially interested in the support of landowners on Ohio Creek because the proposed tailings disposal would affect the Ohio and Carbon Creek drainages. Salter concluded by saying that he felt the county was the most appropriate entity to present the coalition’s position to the Forest Service. "We’ll ask them to develop their own expression of this concept to present to the Forest Service before the holidays," he said.

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