This is part two of a story chronicling an interview with Thompson Creek Metals chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Loughrey and Mount Emmons project manager Larry Clark. The interview took place on Thursday, October 30. A complete transcript of the interview can be found at www.crestedbuttenews.com
Job opportunities for a mine on Red Lady
The Thompson Creek Metals officials say a molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons would bring in two waves of jobs. The first would be the construction phase, which would take several years. Once the mine began bringing moly to the surface, as many as 400 jobs could be available at the mine.
Loughrey said mining jobs are different from the jobs currently available in the valley. “We saw the Sonoran Institute report that talked about the second-home jobs that are available… and they were gardeners, landscape architect, nanny, pool person, personal fitness trainer, things like that. Those are fine jobs. But we have engineers, electricians, mechanics, repairmen, haul truck drivers, shovel operators… lawyers and accountants and managers, human resource people, engineers, biologists. They have great jobs. These are full-time benefit jobs, for people who buy into the community here. You have the multiplier effect of those payroll numbers filtering throughout the Gunnison Valley. It’s a good thing for everybody. It’s a great opportunity,” he said.
While the miners running the specialized equipment could possibly make more than $100,000 a year with overtime, most of those positions will likely be filled by people who already have the skills. “Typically, you try to hire as many people from the local community as you possibly can,” Loughrey said. “Now you have a mixed and wide spectrum of jobs. You probably have 30 or 40 categories of different jobs and that may be an underestimate. The chances that you have 400 qualified workers in those 30 or 40 job categories, living somewhere in the Gunnison Valley is frankly, zero.”
Loughrey said Western State College could act as a feeder institution for jobs at the mine as well. “One of the things I think is very attractive about a property like this is that it creates a lot of jobs so you have a much better chance that someone who graduates from Western State, or grows up here and goes away to college, there’s a point to come back. There may be jobs here.”
Impact on the resort
According to Loughrey, a potential mine is an opportunity that can be compatible with a ski resort.
“Is there no impact? No. No effect? Of course not,” he said. “You know, none of these condos existed at one point. And somebody probably didn’t want them here. But now you look up on the hillside and at what used to be pristine, and it’s full of condos, which people live in six weeks out of the year. But somebody deemed the benefit of that outweighed that cost.
“There is some cost to having a mine here,” he continued. “I’m not denying that. You know, in the construction phase, you got activity here that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. But the price, the advantage of hundreds of jobs of a much more robust, more diverse economy, a bigger contribution to the tax roles, I believe an increase in property values, reduction of property taxes because I know they’ll ding us for the property taxes, your power costs will go down because they ding us for the power costs… That’s the way it works. I think those benefits outweigh the cost of having something happen.”
Citing a family that may come skiing in Crested Butte for the first time, Loughrey said, ”I suspect they will not know it is there… You may see a mine building. But if you have a ski day, you aren’t going to come back and say, Wow, that was a mess because I saw a building. You’ll ski through 50 condos to get to your ski-in, ski-out condo before you get there.”
Clark added, “I think the local folks have a concern that’s really based on a false vision. I mean, I think they really envision a big open pit, some tailings ponds, and they’ve probably driven by Climax, which was first developed 80 or 90 years ago. That’s not what we’re talking about and a big part of our job is showing folks that that’s not what we’re talking about here.”
Loud protest alone won’t stop the project
For both Loughrey and Clark, this isn’t their first rodeo. They expect a fight from the community but given what they say may be an even bigger high-quality molybdenum deposit than is expected in Mt. Emmons, they aren’t going away because some people protest loudly.
“As long as we can meet regulatory requirements, industry standards, sound environmental practices, we’re not going away,” said Clark. “Our plan is to be here and do things right with consideration for all the constituencies that are involved.”
Loughrey agreed with that idea. “I think if I look back at the mines I’ve done over the years, I don’t think there’s been one where there hasn’t been some pretty serious community push-back. Some people who didn’t want it done. And we’re mindful of that and we want to listen to those people and address their concerns the best we can.
“At some point usually with some people, the dialogue becomes meaningless after a while,” he continued. “In our society, we have a way for determining what you do in those cases where people have mutually exclusive ideas about going forward. We have laws and regulations and permitting processes, and all those things, and if you go through that process, with the rules created by elected representatives, that’s how the community decides whether you can go forward or not.”
In the past, mining companies may have pulled away from Crested Butte for a variety of reasons he said, but not simply because of community protests. “If that stopped mining companies, we wouldn’t have any mines. It just doesn’t work that way. So, we’re here for the duration and we may come up with an unsolvable problem that sends us home, and that’s possible but we’re here to make this moly mine.”
You can still take a hike… and a ski
The executives weren’t opposed to people using Mt. Emmons for recreation. They say they don’t plan to stop people from skiing on Red Lady this winter. But they say if the project is approved, hikers and skiers will eventually be prohibited from coming near the industrialized sites of the operation.
“That’s a big mountain and we’ve got a very small piece of that mountain,” said Clark. “There’s going to be lots of Mt. Emmons for you to go ski on.”
For a complete transcript of the interview with Loughrey and Clark, go to www.crestedbuttenews.com.