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Red Lady mine deal details continue to be hammered out

Looking for most efficient way to accomplish the common goals

By Mark Reaman

As was not unexpected, the deal to withdraw mining claims on Mt. Emmons from the possibility of industrial-scale mining in the future and return them to the public domain has been neither quick nor without a few hiccups.

The original hope was that a mineral withdrawal could have been accomplished in the last U.S. Congressional session, but like many things, the election of Donald Trump threw a wrench in that plan when the lame-duck Congress was not open to such legislation.

Owner of the molybdenum mining rights on Mt. Emmons, the Mt. Emmons Mining Company (MEMCO), a subsidiary of global mining giant Freeport McMoRan, is negotiating with the feds, the state of Colorado, the town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County to facilitate the withdrawal and find the most efficient ways to clean up the current mine sites on Red Lady.

According to Crested Butte town attorney John Belkin, there are several potential pathways being explored to achieve the stated community goals of withdrawal, improvement of the water quality in Coal Creek, and mine site remediation on Red Lady. Belkin explained that with so many relevant parties involved there has been a lot of discussion about how best to achieve the goals and supervision.

Options that have been discussed include continuing the process under U.S. Forest Service oversight, possible utilization of the voluntary cleanup program, and potential privatization of a portion of the most affected mine site areas, among other ideas.

If privatization of a portion of the land were an eventual outcome, the land used by Freeport would be held in a conservation easement to ensure the property would never be commercially developed.

While the group is actively investigating all options to quickly and efficiently clean up the mine sites on Red Lady as part of the mineral withdrawal, no consensus has yet been reached on how to proceed.

Belkin said while everyone involved with the discussions continues to be on the same page and have a good relationship during negotiations, the details have produced a few bumps in the road. “This is a very unusual deal in that we are working very cooperatively with a mining company and a lot of different government entities to not mine a mountain. That doesn’t happen very often,” Belkin said. “So we expected it would take some time to work through all the necessary details, and it is.”

Belkin said several meetings are scheduled in the next few weeks for the various entities involved with the deal to continue working out details, but he does not have any timeline of when it might be concluded.

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