Public can ask questions at open houses
The Mt. Emmons Moly Company is taking another stab at getting federal approval to do some studies around the proposed molybdenum mine just west of Crested Butte. The company plans to submit a proposal to both the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by this Friday, April 2 that would eventually allow Mt. Emmons Moly Company to gather some data through soil samples, water monitoring and geotechnical data.
A similar proposal last year resulted in the Forest Service making it clear that such data gathering could involve an extensive Environmental Impact Statement process, but at the very least would entail an Environmental Assessment.
“The plan we are getting ready to propose is substantially different from the proposal we submitted last year,” said Mt. Emmons Moly Company director of community relations Perry Anderson. “Last year the plan was written from an earlier proposal. The 2010 Plan of Operation [PoO] now addresses various alternatives for geotechnical evaluation.”
The company will file an initial PoO by the end of the week, Friday, April 2. Several test pits would be dug to gather soil samples and then immediately reclaimed. Some boreholes would be drilled for geotechnical data and in some instances water-monitoring equipment would be installed.
Thompson Creek Metals Company director of environmental affairs Randy MacGillivray said the company has been looking at various nearby locations to place a tailings dam, a mill site and water reservoirs. “This plan is geared to gather baseline data collections,” he said. “We’ll be measuring stream flow and water quality about once a month. It’s our first attempt to do some field work.”
Mining company U.S. Energy will make the official submission to the Forest Service and BLM. They are working with Thompson Creek Metals Company to evaluate the project.
MacGillivray said the company is considering a site for the tailings in the Carbon Creek drainage. Water reservoirs could be built in the Elk Creek and Carbon Creek areas and mill site locations are being considered in the Carbon Creek drainage or near the old Keystone Mine.
The baseline tests will be conducted in these areas. MacGillivray said just 1.6 acres of total land will be disturbed, “most of that on private, patented land.
“The big thing we’ve done,” he continued, “is determine how we’ll be getting the excavators and drill rigs to these spots. If there isn’t a road to the place we will be testing, we will airlift in the equipment with helicopters. When you airlift machinery into these spots, the reclamation will be done after the testing is done.”
As part of the studies, the company will be looking at a proposed Slate River diversion. The company owns water rights at the confluence out of Oh-Be-Joyful so water would have to be transported back around Mount Emmons to the mine site. “As part of this program we will be testing where to place a pump house,” MacGillivray said. “We don’t yet know exactly where the pipeline route would go.”
Given the time it is expected to take the Forest Service and BLM to review the application, the mining company doesn’t expect work to start on the data collection until July of 2011. “The federal permitting process takes time and there is a small window between mid-July and mid-November to conduct the work. I doubt we could make it in time to start this summer,” said MacGillivray.
MacGillivray said permits would be obtained in a phased approach. They will start with the federal permits and then follow up with the other necessary permits as needed. “We assume the town will want a watershed permit and we will look at the county as well,” he said.
MacGillivray said the Plan of Operation being submitted this week is small and relevant only to the testing. “We have a theoretical timeline,” he explained. “This field work would be done in the summer of 2011. We would then update the prefeasibility studies. It would then take about a year to get a mine footprint. We expect to perhaps submit a comprehensive mine plane for NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] review in 2012.”
The Mt. Emmons Moly Company will hold two open houses in mid-April to allow the public to ask questions about the proposed tests. The gatherings will take place in Crested Butte on April 14 at the company’s Elk Avenue office, while on April 15 a similar open house will be conducted at the Gunnison office.
“We’re conscious of the fact there is some confusion over this Plan of Operation with a full-blown mining plan,” explained MacGillivray. “This is a small field operation to evaluate which sites will work best with which to move forward. Technical personnel will be there to answer questions. We look forward to public participation. This is not part of any scoping process. It is an attempt to answer questions from members of the public.”
Dan Morse, High Country Citizens’ Alliance executive director, will be watching to see what the mining company proposes. “This action is connected to water rights and the company must show diligence with these water rights, so that’s why they intend to submit some sort of plan before April 2. The water rights are key in this situation.”
Morse said he hopes to get a copy of the plan as soon as possible. “We won’t know until we know what’s in the plan,” he said. “So we’ve spoken to the Forest Service and we’ll try to get a copy of the plan as soon as possible.
“We want to see a whole plan,” continued Morse. “Looking at the project in smaller segments like this doesn’t show the entire impact of the mining project.”
HCCA wants to make sure proper review is accomplished. “What they have said in public so far has been very simplistic and not very thorough,” Morse said. “We expect that an Environmental Assessment will be the minimum required by the Forest Service and an EIS might be more appropriate.”