I spent more than a few minutes this past week looking over the Plan of Operations (PoO) submitted to the U.S. Forest Service by U.S. Energy. A couple of things strike me as interesting. First, that it is called a PoO. Love it.
Second, the mine would be operating every minute of every day for 33 years. That’s a lot of activity. Two 12-hour shifts per day for those 33 years would employ about 335 people. That doesn’t seem like a lot of people if one of the mine company’s big arguments for approval is employment.
They’d bring in close to 1,000 workers to get it up and going for four years prior to actual mining. Like it or not, that usually brings with it a high number of transient workers who oftentimes (not always) bring with them a transient attitude—and that can mean trouble. I’m sure the local cops will love it. I smell more money in the law enforcement budgets.
The company plans to push the operation toward the railroad line, which means using Kebler Pass Road—a lot. Summer, fall, winter, spring. They don’t plan to pave it but “upgrade” it. A plowed dirt road over Kebler in March, April and May? How messy could it really be? Real frickin’ messy. And following big mining trucks over the pass as you go to pick up apples and peaches? Fun stuff that. And you might as well post a tow truck somewhere up there all winter. Kebler gets a tad more snow than Crested Butte in the winter so the vision of massive trucks navigating steep twisty turns in a blizzard is pretty interesting.
“The top of the Mt. Emmons molybdenite deposit lies approximately 1,000 feet below the surface of the west flank of Mt. Emmons. The full deposit is about 2,300 feet in diameter and is approximately circular in view, resembling an inverted cup.” I just found that interesting. And the plan to have giant crushers processing literally tons of earth underneath the mine sounds like a television show on Discovery. If it wasn’t in a place that could get screwed up so permanently in our valley, it might be fun to watch the giant machines. But the potential ramifications to a tourism-based economy are so intense it’s a little upside-down to consider it and I don’t want us living in some bad second-rate TV show.
Tailings ponds. Those are essentially poison lakes that will be located south of the mine toward the Ohio Creek valley. Pristine areas of this neighborhood will be turned into storage areas for trash with three new dams.
And I always like the disclaimer that “Although a temporary shutdown of operations is not planned, circumstances beyond the control of the Project may require a temporary cessation of operations. In the event that the facility has to be temporarily closed due to severe weather conditions, unfavorable economic conditions…” What this is acknowledging is that mining is inherently a boom-and-bust industry. Heck, my understanding is that most moly mines in this country are either closed or operating at super slow rates right now.
There is a long murder trial taking place in the Gunnison County courthouse. It could go on for another month. Apparently 600 local people were called as potential jurors. I sat in the courtroom and listened a bit last week. Expecting to go for about a half hour, I sat riveted for closer to an-hour-and-a-half. That too was like a TV show…but one that was interesting and real and wild. Talk about reality television. The guy is accused of killing his wife near Lake City. Wow.
And that trial started about the same time a Gunnison guy allegedly killed his uncle. The thing that gets me is that the guy’s rap sheet more than indicates he shouldn’t have really been out in a position to possibly hurt someone. He apparently did some nasty, violent things in the years prior to this incident but never spent a long time in prison. Instead, the prisons are too often clogged with dudes who dealt drugs to a narc. The United States incarcerates more people for drug offenses than any other country. And possibly as a result, we see a tangible example of someone with a violent past who gets let out time after time. That just isn’t right.
Last January I spent a few days at Hartman Rocks riding the mountain bike. It was pretty darn pleasant. This year it is back to normal. The past weekend recorded a high of 5 degrees. Gunnison hit 38 below. Crested Butte was 30 below just before the sun rose on Tuesday. The snow squeaks, car engines groan, exposed skin stings and there is no melting going on outside. It feels like January is supposed to feel in this high mountain valley. Now, having said that, I am glad that the temperatures are climbing back into the 20s and 30s during the day. It may feel like a day at the beach. It will be February before we can truly count on the turn. That is when we pray for decent snow at night and pleasant days to play in it.
The X Gamer:
Local phenom and half-pipe skier Aaron Blunck was invited to participate in the 2013 X Games this week. That’s the big time. In the young demographic, the X Games continue to be cooler than the Olympics and it will be a tad more affordable for the 16-year old since it’s happening at the end of the month across the mountain range in Aspen. Described on NBC Sports this past weekend as a “Young Gun in the sport,” the smooth skiing Blunck is another of this mountain town’s really good people. He’s a special athletic talent and he will be a wonderful ambassador for this town as the event is broadcast around the world. Good luck to a good kid.
When you play not to lose you cannot win. When you stray from your strengths, you have a tendency to flounder. When you choose to take a knee and surrender opportunity, you lessen the chances of victory. When you keep making mistakes you worked so hard to avoid but keep trying to do the same unsuccessful thing time after time hoping it might work the next time, what do you really think is going to happen? Those are lessons that might be learned here. Just saying…
Stay classy, Crested Butte.