Local stakeholders ask: Is three years of monitoring enough?
U.S. Energy, the mining company with mineral rights beneath Mt. Emmons, submitted additional information to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) last week concerning its proposed VCUP (voluntary clean-up plan) for the old Keystone mine on Red Lady. The local stakeholders are reviewing the new proposal and will comment on the plan to the state by next month. No official timeline for comments and review has been established by the state but they hope to have a completed analysis in July.
The VCUP is meant to be a way to eliminate and treat toxic water from exiting the old mine. The VCUP would essentially plug up the mine, reinforce existing tailings ponds and provide passive water treatment systems, as opposed to treating contaminated water at the current wastewater treatment plant. The public has voiced concern that plugging the mine will lead contaminated water to seep out of the mountain in areas without treatment potential and could contaminate the Crested Butte drinking water supply.
USE had made an initial VCUP application to the state last year. The CDPHE insisted that USE provide a monitoring plan, a contingency plan and an engineering design plan for the bulkheads as part of a completed application. Those items were sent to the state and dated June 2. The USE proposal was written by Sovereign Consulting Inc. of Lakewood, Colo.
“This was in response to CDPHE’s March 21 letter requesting additional information necessary to fully evaluate the application,” explained Doug Jamison, the Superfund/Brownfields unit leader of the CDPHE. “There has not been a deadline set for review of the application. However we are hoping to have the review done in July.”
The 54-page report addressed the concerns of the CDPHE. “Construction of the bulkheads in [the mine] will allow the site to achieve the goal of returning to pre-mining site condition,” the report states. “The Mt. Emmons Natural Iron Fen has been identified as being older than 8,000 years and it predates [the mine]. Returning the ground water system back to pre-mining conditions should not affect the iron fen…”