If a Times is going to scoop the News I suppose I’d rather it be like last Monday when the New York Times posted a press release on their website from U.S. Energy Corp. saying a deal was in the works to prohibit all mining forever on Mt. Emmons. Their daily paper beat our weekly rag to the punch. Ouch. Now about the deal…
As the valley evolved over the decades from a mining town to a resort community, the idea 35 years ago of a new molybdenum mine on Red Lady was ugly. It has been a long fight and a fight worth having. I’m not opposed to all mining. I have a bike and a car and I use molybdenum. But in a loudly NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude, a destination resort has far different needs than a mining town. They aren’t compatible no matter how much lipstick you put on that pig. A destination attraction needs to have destination amenities worth traveling for. In the mountains that means clean water, fresh air, pristine views and crystal night skies. A mine doesn’t help those qualities. And there is plenty of molybdenum being mined in this world already. So that fight to stop a mine three miles west of town (and which isn’t over yet, people) is a righteous one.
Now while the fight may not be over, there has been a giant leap toward a workable peace agreement. The miners, the enviros, the politicians have all finally seemed to find common ground. As the president of the mining company said, “We have broken bread and it’s been an enjoyable personal experience.” One quality lesson out of this is that good personal connections count and 99 times out of 100 finding a sliver of common ground works better than complete demonization of people with different views and goals.
At the same time, the mine company admitted to investors this week that the mine could be having a negative impact on the company and I get the feeling they are ready to look elsewhere for extractive dollars. It probably makes a lot of sense to take $50 million or $100 million in the near term as opposed to continually rolling the dice to try and maybe earn hundreds of millions of dollars years and years down the road.
So the local leaders and state and national politicians are agreeing that that makes sense and we should join together to accommodate the concept. Sounds right. They acknowledge U.S. Energy deserves some compensation. Fair enough. Now it is a matter of detail. And there will be a lot of details. But the significant bottom line is that the locals will end up somehow taking responsibility (financial and otherwise) for a critical water treatment plant that keeps water clear and pristine in the upper valley. It won’t be cheap and somehow you might end up contributing. But it will be worth it. It appears we are now depending on Congress. That’s not all that comforting but Senators Udall and Bennet are good people who have been here and understand this issue. Take a minute and write them a note of encouragement.
This is a valley that in this day and age depends on people coming here to experience relatively untouched mountains. Clean air. Clean water. Clear skies and silent nights are the draw, not industrial mining operations. So this is a great step forward for the current realities of Crested Butte and the valley. This is a week to celebrate common ground that can end a fight many thought would never end. The details will be many and I anticipate a glitch or two but this is a huge step and one to celebrate.